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: Move; Jeru; Moon Dreams; Venus de Milo; Budo; Deception; Godchild; Boplicity; Rocker; Israel; rouge; Darn That Dream.

Live sessions: Theme; Move; Why Do I Love You; Godchild; S

Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Capitol Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Rejoice! I'm Dead!" CD/LP/Track Review Rejoice! I'm Dead!
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 11, 2017
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Caipi" CD/LP/Track Review Caipi
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "Carolina" CD/LP/Track Review Carolina
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 5, 2016
Read "Lovers" CD/LP/Track Review Lovers
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 20, 2016
Read "The Soul Jazz Beat Vol. 2" CD/LP/Track Review The Soul Jazz Beat Vol. 2
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 20, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!