Does jazz "ax(e)" derive from jazz "chops"?

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Oct 6 19:34:22 UTC 2002

Jonathon Green (editor, _Cassell's Dictionary of Slang_) privately
sent me a message in reply to my query about axe/chops, and with his
permission I now share it with ads-l. JEL in his message is Jonathan
Lighter, editor of (the invaluable) Historical Dictionary of American

Gerald Cohen

>As regards chops = skill, I'm surprised that JEL missed the pre-1968 cites
>from available in Robert S. Gold: _Jazz Lexicon_ (1964)
>1947 Metronome Jan. 32: He might not have the chops he used to have, but his
>ideas are always fine
>1958 Down Beat 24 Jul. 14: While it lasted it helped musicians who weren't
>working because they could keep up their chops
>1962 Down Beat  27 Sep. 41: He's got a lotta chops, but he played way too
>Gold (p. 8) also etymologizes _ax/axe_ on the basis of cites from PADS Nov.
>1958 p. 43, in which the 'fancied resemblance in shape' of the saxophone is
>equated with that of an axe, and from Esquire 1959 p. 70H) in which the axe
>is seen as generic for 'any tool of work.'
>But as to the ax/chops link, he has nothing, frustratingly, to offer.

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