The Hipster and His Jazz Lingo

As warmer summer-like weather approaches broadcasters tell of imminent jazz festivals. But my first understanding of the term jazz is of bebop jazz; that music whose rhythms flew to the stratosphere and that drummers punctuated with bass drum bombs, its pace, at times too fast for the foot to beat four to the bar, or for jitter bugging dancers used to more middle of the road swing and sway of popular big band orchestras. And bebop jazz was “cool”, not like swing or its predecessor “hot” predictable ragtime jazz. Bebop’s high flying swing and almost tempo-less adagio seemed at times not of the earth as were its soloists kicked in by a bass bomb at an unforeseen climax that stopped musical time for a momentary forever, then blew notes in all directions “cooking” like “crazy” and carving all who’d get in the way; evoking listeners’ hardly verbal metaphoric hipster response of:  not wow, not listen but “dig”, “Dig” a verb that all but commanded listeners to behold the notes just delivered “far out”  into “cool “ interplanetary space – real “cool” – and – “crazy man”  – “crazy”. not insane, not dumb but beyond normal understanding. And all anyone could say was “dig” immerse yourself in what you’re witnessing; let it take your mind on a trip to behold things you hadn’t known were there. “Dig”,  this simple idiomatic metaphor with all its hipster connotations was often used outside the hipster’s musical context as it came to replace  the less idiomatic perceive for seeing and comprehending. Digging was a kind of sympathetic depth perception which included our idiomatic “walking in another person’s shoes”: when you dug someone you got to understand the totality of their being.

This word “dig” that seems strange in its now archaic hipster usage, forgotten along with ”cool” jazz whose origins were memorialized on a Myles Davis album cover as Birth of the Cool. “Cool” which for me meant “cool cat”, the hipster aficionado of bebop jazz has gone the way of that famed primeval bird. But “cool” the epithet that used to characterize that odd but extinct cool-cat, the hipster, with his vocabulary limited to “dig” “crazy” “man” and of course “cool” meant by him to signal something rare and worthy of high regard, has not.


The above is an old post from I’m repeating it because I heard there’d be a jazz festival at Toronto’s beaches. A group that was to play at the festival was a regae group, and for me jazz used to be that old music with sometimes feverishly swinging up tempo; interstellar chord progressions accompanying solos stretching to far out galaxies, and of course the zoot suited sophisticated aficionado of bop, the hipster.