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Jazz Gates are Swinging

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Trombonist Benjamin Jacobs-El, who toured with jazz great Lionel Hampton, calls from Huntsville, Alabama, to say that Hampton regularly addressed friends and band members as gate, as in Hey, gates, how’re you doing? Is that because good jazz swings and a gate swings, too? It appears that’s the case, although it also may be a reference to Gatemouth, one of trumpeter Louis Armstrong’s many nicknames. When he played, audiences would shout Swing it, Gate! It’s also possible that Gate evolved into cat, as in a “hip or cool character,” a term also influenced by tomcat and the sly characteristics associated with a streetwise male feline. This is part of a complete episode.

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