473

Miles Davis: The Complete Birth of the Cool

By

Sign in to view read count
Miles Davis: The Complete Birth of the Cool
With the reissue of the Miles Davis BIRTH OF THE COOL sessions, accompanied by recordings of this seminal nonet’s slightly earlier live dates at New York City’s Royal Roost, we now have as complete as possible an account of this still fresh sounding and beautiful music. The array of talent alone is startling: Miles Davis in transition between his earlier bebop stylings, and his later gorgeous tone and sparer choice of notes; Lee Konitz on alto sax playing startling melodic inventions which he would subsequently abandon—of his playing at the time, he later said that he didn’t know what he was doing; pianist John Lewis still bopping but also finding an arranger’s touch years before the Modern Jazz Quartet would become his instrument; this same touch in the hands of Gil Evans and the fluent baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan likewise bringing a striking set of colors to the charts, a whole post-bebop aesthetic; fluid trombone from Kai Winding and J. J. Johnson; propulsive drumming from Max Roach, a more relaxed beat from Kenny Clarke.

The live dates, which have circulated previously in various forms separate from the recording sessions, are sometimes a bit ragged, but they hold up anyway. There’s nothing very startling here for anyone acquainted with the more polished official recordings, but it’s a pleasure to hear more solos from Lee Konitz, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, solos which sometimes bear a distant but evident relation to the more familiar, more widely available ones. The sound is better than I expected, bearing out producer Phil Schaap’s contention that these are on-site recordings rather than broadcast piracies. The live dates also provide the opportunity for some lively reminiscence in the form of a liner note by writer Michael Zwerin, who played trombone on them.

What more can be said about the studio dates? They were very much of their time. Some of the same sensibility, harmonically adventurous but more emotionally relaxed than the still contemporaneous bebop, shows up in the sextet recordings of Lennie Tristano, which also included Lee Konitz. All these players had cut their teeth on bebop, and Davis, Lewis, Johnson and Roach had all recorded with Charlie Parker. The bebop sensibility shows up in their chromatic harmonic sequences, their relaxation at relatively fast tempos, and in the choice of a tune like “Budo.” The ballads don’t have the sugary lushness of the Claude Thornhill orchestra where some of the band’s ideas and personnel originated; instead they communicate a spare, modernist feeling.

This is particularly apparent on the second live “Moon Dreams,” an especially lovely composition which here seems to function as the backdrop for much conversation, somewhat audible under the music. It’s like the soundtrack for a movie, with the crowd talking on in willful ignorance of the poignant moment that they are missing. Thus did the original sessions, retrospectively titled THE BIRTH OF THE COOL in the mid-1950’s, come to bring the light to a whole generation of musicians who were looking for something less driven than bebop, more relaxed, and suitable for players who weren’t improvisational geniuses like the leading boppers—Bird, Diz, and Bud Powell. But you can’t charge that influence against the account of these wonderful and passionate performances, which retain an authenticity derived from their creation of new forms, even while their imitators have long since passed.

Track Listing

Studio:Move; Jeru; Moon Dreams; Venus De Milo; Budo; Deception; Godchild; Boplicity; Rocker; Israel; Rouge; Darn That Dream.Live: Birth of the Cool Theme; Move; Why Do I Love You; Godchild; S'il Vous Plait; Moon Dreams; Budo; Darn That Dream, Move; Mood Dreams; Budo.

Personnel

Miles Davis (trumpet); Kenny Hagood (vocals); Lee Konitz (alto saxophone); Gerry Mulligan (baritone saxophone); J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding (trombone); Junior Collins, Sandy Siegelstein, Gunther Schuller (French horn); Bill Barber (tuba); John Lewis, Al Haig (piano); Al McKibbon, Joe Shulman, Nelson Boyd (acoustic bass); Kenny Clarke, Max Roach (drums). Personnel on live tracks: Miles Davis (trumpet); Kenny Hagood (vocals); Lee Konitz (alto saxophone); Gerry Mulligan (baritone saxophone); Mike Zwerin (trombone); Junior Collins (French horn); Bill Barber (tuba); John Lewis (piano); Al McKibbon (bass); Max Roach (drums).

Album information

Title: The Complete Birth Of The Cool | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Capitol Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus
Ikue Mori / Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura
Read Time OutTakes
Time OutTakes
Dave Brubeck Quartet
Read In Baltimore
In Baltimore
The George Coleman Quintet

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.