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Old January 6 2013, 02:54 PM   #1
JoeZhang
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Jazz music and tough guy fiction

I read a lot of American 'tough guy' fiction (recently finishing the Joe Kurtz series) and it occurs to me - why do so many authors have their tough guy character (be they a PI or a cop) like Jazz music?

What's the significance of it?
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Old January 6 2013, 02:58 PM   #2
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
I read a lot of American 'tough guy' fiction (recently finishing the Joe Kurtz series) and it occurs to me - why do so many authors have their tough guy character (be they a PI or a cop) like Jazz music?

What's the significance of it?
The sleaze of the saxamophone?
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Old January 6 2013, 03:03 PM   #3
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

It's a cheap and easy way to indicate that a character is more sophisticated than he appears, without resorting to opera or abstract art, things that may be perceived as lessening his "though guy" aura.
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Old January 6 2013, 03:04 PM   #4
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

I'm guessing with it's roots in the 20's and 30's it was associated with speak easies, bootleggers, and the folks who go up against the establishment. The term hard-boiled for tough guys originated in the jazz age, seemingly. Here's a neat dictionary of jazz age slang, which sounds like every detective cliche ever used in hard-boiled detective novels http://home.earthlink.net/~dlarkins/slang-pg.htm and a short article on jazz age slang is to be found here... http://www.mookychick.co.uk/how-to/h..._age_slang.php
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Old January 7 2013, 01:10 AM   #5
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

The Mirrorball Man wrote: View Post
It's a cheap and easy way to indicate that a character is more sophisticated than he appears, without resorting to opera or abstract art, things that may be perceived as lessening his "though guy" aura.
Don't know that I'de call it "cheap", but I agree that having the tough guy like jazz is meant to convey to the audience that the character has a certain sophistication. It also allows the character the ability to maintain an aura of "coolness".

Gov Kodos wrote: View Post
Here's a neat dictionary of jazz age slang, which sounds like every detective cliche ever used in hard-boiled detective novels http://home.earthlink.net/~dlarkins/slang-pg.htm
I've done a lot of listening to and reading about jazz and it's history and that is the strangest list of so called "jazz slang", I've ever seen. I didn't even see the word "cat" listed under the "C" category. Weird list.
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Old January 7 2013, 03:21 AM   #6
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

gblews wrote: View Post
The Mirrorball Man wrote: View Post
It's a cheap and easy way to indicate that a character is more sophisticated than he appears, without resorting to opera or abstract art, things that may be perceived as lessening his "though guy" aura.
Don't know that I'de call it "cheap", but I agree that having the tough guy like jazz is meant to convey to the audience that the character has a certain sophistication.
I said it was cheap because it's become a cliché at this point. It's a stock character trait for stock characters.
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Old January 7 2013, 08:02 AM   #7
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

gblews wrote: View Post

Gov Kodos wrote: View Post
Here's a neat dictionary of jazz age slang, which sounds like every detective cliche ever used in hard-boiled detective novels http://home.earthlink.net/~dlarkins/slang-pg.htm
I've done a lot of listening to and reading about jazz and it's history and that is the strangest list of so called "jazz slang", I've ever seen. I didn't even see the word "cat" listed under the "C" category. Weird list.
List looks OK to me for the period in question (1920s and 30s.) Wouldn't "cat" have come a bit later on, though - mid- and post-WWII, with bebop, the jump bands, and cool?
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Old January 7 2013, 09:18 PM   #8
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

M'Sharak wrote: View Post
gblews wrote: View Post

Gov Kodos wrote: View Post
Here's a neat dictionary of jazz age slang, which sounds like every detective cliche ever used in hard-boiled detective novels http://home.earthlink.net/~dlarkins/slang-pg.htm
I've done a lot of listening to and reading about jazz and it's history and that is the strangest list of so called "jazz slang", I've ever seen. I didn't even see the word "cat" listed under the "C" category. Weird list.
List looks OK to me for the period in question (1920s and 30s.) Wouldn't "cat" have come a bit later on, though - mid- and post-WWII, with bebop, the jump bands, and cool?
No, "cat" was a term Louie Armstrong is generally credited with popularizing and he was huge in the '20s.

But I do note that the list is called "Jazz Era Slang" which I suppose might mean that the slang didn't necessarily originate with jazz musicians. But if that is the case I wonder why the list wasn't just called "Popular Slang from the '20s and the '30s". Calling it Jazz Era Slang to me, implies that this slang originated with jazz music or with jazz musicians. I'm aware that I'm knitpicking.

And BTW, the period you refer to, the '40s, post WWII -- it seems to me could also be called the jazz era since the music was SO popular during those years.
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Old January 8 2013, 03:08 PM   #9
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

Most film noir scores are fairly jazzy, no? The sax in particular evoking the loneliness of a cold, rainy night in a city that keeps its secrets.

So it only makes sense to have gumshoe types appreciate jazz. If the tail was smarter than the dog...
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Old January 9 2013, 06:47 AM   #10
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

gblews wrote: View Post
M'Sharak wrote: View Post
gblews wrote: View Post


I've done a lot of listening to and reading about jazz and it's history and that is the strangest list of so called "jazz slang", I've ever seen. I didn't even see the word "cat" listed under the "C" category. Weird list.
List looks OK to me for the period in question (1920s and 30s.) Wouldn't "cat" have come a bit later on, though - mid- and post-WWII, with bebop, the jump bands, and cool?
No, "cat" was a term Louie Armstrong is generally credited with popularizing and he was huge in the '20s.

But I do note that the list is called "Jazz Era Slang" which I suppose might mean that the slang didn't necessarily originate with jazz musicians. But if that is the case I wonder why the list wasn't just called "Popular Slang from the '20s and the '30s". Calling it Jazz Era Slang to me, implies that this slang originated with jazz music or with jazz musicians. I'm aware that I'm knitpicking.

And BTW, the period you refer to, the '40s, post WWII -- it seems to me could also be called the jazz era since the music was SO popular during those years.
Even though jazz continued to be popular in various forms, the capitalized "Jazz Age" typically refers to the 1920s up until the onset of the Depression, and did not apply exclusively to jazz and jazz musicians but also to the surrounding scene and culture - dance, fashion, art, attitudes toward establishment and tradition. (The slang list appears to more loosely apply the term to encompass the pre-swing years of the 1930s as well, but that's more an editorial choice than anything.)
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Old January 9 2013, 09:20 AM   #11
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

It was raining, a dirty night in a dirty city. Somewhere downtown, a guy was beating someone. Somewhere downtown, a woman was putting a gat in her purse on her way to one last date. Somewhere across the city. a guy was pulling out a flick knife, and another guy was shoving drugs into the boot of his car to make that big score.

Me? I was sipping a long Jack Daniels while listening to Bix Beidferbecke on the electric victrola. I remember my granddad having one of the old windup ones and the wax cylinders. The shellac discs were much cleaner, and I could hear Bix's notes vibrating cleanly. One clean thing in a dirty city. I toasted Bix. Wherever he was.
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Old January 9 2013, 09:49 AM   #12
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction



She came at me in sections. More curves than a scenic railway.

(actually, I bet board denizens could prob do a great 5-words-a-time gumshoe pastiche )

Last edited by lurok; January 9 2013 at 12:20 PM.
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Old January 9 2013, 11:15 AM   #13
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

Fred Astaire really was a smooth criminal.
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Old January 9 2013, 05:11 PM   #14
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

This seems as good a time as any to quote those immortal words of Raymond Chandler:

"She was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a whole in a stained-glass window."
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Old January 9 2013, 11:00 PM   #15
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Re: Jazz music and tough guy fiction

That's Cyd Charisse. Classy

"She was a dame with gams that never quit."
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