Words: sing the riffs, v.

THE ELEGANT doyenne of jazz commentary in New York is Jean Bach, director of A Great Day in Harlem. Slang springs readily to her lips, in even the toniest restaurants. The pianist and singer Barbara Carroll said one recent lunchtime that she could not make a party that evening. "That's all right, I'll go, and sing you the riffs later," replied Jean.

I asked her whether this was hip talk in Forties Chicago. "No, I sort of made that up - meaning, to relay news and gossip - but people did sing the riffs to those who'd not been at a concert by Miles or Dizzy, performers who were not mere cookie-cutters." The phrase has many possibilities: "Can you get to the meeting this morning?" "No, I'm busy. Swing by later and sing me the riffs."

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