jazz or music jargon: “hit” synonymous with “gig”? 
Posted: 13 May 2013 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I am a devoted reader of Do the Math, Ethan Iverson’s blog. (He’s the pianist in The Bad Plus, and an absolutely remarkable writer on various aspects of jazz and other topics.)
On a couple of posts he’s used the word “hit” as a synonym of “gig.” Example (rough paraphrases): “We had a good hit last night in Philly” or “...the last tour involved a few hits with Joe Blow on guitar.” Is this a newer slang expression? An older term I’ve somehow overlooked?  I’ve done a fair amount of reading about jazz (books by or about Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, interviews and oral histories, etc) and have some experience as a (very) amateur musician, and yet this usage is completely new to me. And I’ve combed through several standard online dictionaries/thesauruses and lists of jazz slang, and nowhere do I see “hit” defined in this way.

Anyone?

I’m also going to post this to a jazz discussion forum.

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Posted: 13 May 2013 04:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve played a few “jazz” gigs.

I could imagine “hit” used in this fashion, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term used in that fashion.

Players will sometimes “hit up” a working band at a gig, asking to be allowed to walk on and play a number with the working performing act.

The success of the plea depends on the reputation and skill of the player who is doing the hitting. Probably more on the reputation, but certainly also on the skill or recognized former skill of the hitting player. 

Musician’s slang is (or at used to be, in my experience) a very complex and dynamically changing code. Some areas of the country are isolated and the slang is very regional. Baltimore might differ from New Jersey and New jersey probably differs from both Boston and New York.

I’d be interested to hear if you come up with anything definitive on “hit” as an interchangeable term for “gig”.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I can’t find this usage in any of my slang dictionaries. At first I thought Iverson might be using it in the sense of “a success,” but it doesn’t appear so. Some actual citations from his blog:

28 Apr 2013: (Post-gig photo) Nice hit last night in Eugene. Rest of tour: 28 Portland, OR—Mission Theater ...

28 Nov 2011: He did it right, because I was at the last hit with Kikuchi and Osby in September and he was still strong.

3 Dec 2011: It was kind of like hearing the J.D. Allen trio with some burning piano solos edited in.  Nice hit, but I can’t understand the way they played the bridge of “If You Could See Me Now.” Tadd Dameron is turning in his grave!

29 Dec 2011: For that matter, I’m ready to hear Holland on a free-form hit again, he hasn’t done enough of them lately.

That last one is particularly interesting.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 05:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m guessing it’s entirely personal slang, to which jazz musicians are particularly prone.  Lester Young and others back in the ‘30s and ‘40s had some of their idiosyncratic terms taken into general usage; we’ll see if Iverson’s gets lucky (though I doubt it—“gig” is short, pleasing, and ubiquitous, and “hit” is confusing).

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Posted: 14 May 2013 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks, all, for your speculations (and to Dave for the sleuthing--that’s so great). I wish the jazz forum was as easy to join as this one--still waiting for the admin to authorize me.
Regarding the regionalism of jazz (and slang), it’s a good point, but it seems to me that Iverson is unaffiliated with a particular locale. Though he’s based in NYC, his formative period was in St Paul, MN, I believe, and The Bad Plus tours internationally. As for languagehat’s suggestion that it could be Iverson’s personal term, I’d be surprised at this possibility. He’s a pretty and fine careful communicator, loose and informal at times depending on his topic, but not one to be so arbitrary.
My own wondering: “hit” has drug-related meanings (as in, a hit of speed, or getting a hit off a pipe). Yes? I suppose for many musicians playing live can feel like getting a fix, satisfying an addiction, especially in the jazz world with its depth of personal expression. Or, playing a gig results in getting paid, results in ability to then go off and buy the “hit.” Just a guess as to origin.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Why not just ask him?

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Posted: 14 May 2013 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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As for languagehat’s suggestion that it could be Iverson’s personal term, I’d be surprised at this possibility. He’s a pretty and fine careful communicator, loose and informal at times depending on his topic, but not one to be so arbitrary.

And yet there seems to be no evidence for anyone else using it.  I agree with happydog: Why not ask him?

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Posted: 15 May 2013 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Seems like it could be a gig in which someone unexpected sits in for a set.

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