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).

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Company I Keep CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ma De Re Sha CD/LP/Track Review Ma De Re Sha
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ask Seek Knock CD/LP/Track Review Ask Seek Knock
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Air and Light and Time and Space CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Pekka" CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "Petite Afrique" CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971" CD/LP/Track Review On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "Calvins Toboggan" CD/LP/Track Review Calvins Toboggan
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Pekka" CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "A Missing Shade of Blue" CD/LP/Track Review A Missing Shade of Blue
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 22, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.