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Arts & Culture

Hip According To Cannonball

Many years ago I heard a jazz artist describe “hip” to a New York audience at the Village Vanguard. Sadly, I wasn’t there in person. It was part of a recording of a live performance by the Cannonball Adderley sextet. I listened to Cannon’s speech again this week after my brother sent me a CD which included that track.

Cannonball Adderley played the alto sax and led a band in the 1960s that included his brother Nat, on cornet. It was a time when jazz was performed by black men who wore conservative suits and ties and who played with a virtuosity and inventive energy that still amazes me.

They were the very definition of hip. But who am I to say?


Here’s Cannon’s definition, spoken to a Village Vanguard audience just prior to a musical set. Listen to their recording of the tune Dizzy’s Business to know what hipsters were listening to.

“We’ve made a lot of records in nightclubs, especially in California at the famous Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach and at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. And the reason we selected those rooms is because the audiences were so hip. We could just play what we wanted to play and everybody dug it, you see. We’ve never made a live album in New York because for some reason we have never really felt the kind of thing we wanted to feel from the audience, which has nothing to do with acceptance, applause or appreciation. It’s the atmosphere.

"You know, you get a lot of people who are supposed to be hip. And they act like they’re supposed to be hip, which makes a big difference. You see what I mean? Now, we have been especially impressed with the audience here at the matinee performance at the Village Vanguard. We think this is the kind of audience that is the real jazz audience. And we want to thank you for making it possible… for being so really hip.

"Hipness is not a state of mind. It’s a fact of life. You don’t decide you’re hip. It just happens that way. So today we’re doing our first New York live album, courtesy of you, the live audience.”

-Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (1928 - 1975)

Dizzy's Business