Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Miles Davis - The Birth of the Cool (Capitol 1948-50, 1998)

Miles Davis’s first great record as a leader came when he was very young, just 23 years of age. Tempered by the fast paced bebop he was playing with Charlie Parker, Davis make a conscious decision to move in another direction. Experimenting with like minded musicians at the apartment of arranger Gil Evans, they moved from the feverish pitch of bebop to a more impressionistic form of improvised music. On this disc is all of the music of this band currently available, nonet recordings for Capitol Records and live radio recordings made at the Royal Roost jazz club in New York City. What makes the music so interesting is that while it draws on both swing and bebop (and classical music as well) it is in thrall to nothing, creating a new path for the musicians to explore. Evans, Davis and Gerry Mulligan were the architects of the sound, but the performances draw on several different composers. The opener and the band’s theme, Denzil Best’s “Move” moves at a very fast pace that belies the group’s “cool” nature. If music like this along with the brisk Bud Powell homage “Budo” and the tight and spindly “Rocker” show the move from bop was gradual, then there are other clues like the brash and adventurous “Boplicity” and John Lewis’s nice blues “S’il Vous Plait” from the live section. So while the music recorded here wasn’t the distinct break that it is often touted to be, it was still influential and important. It signaled that Miles Davis was going to be a leader and a pace setter who we be at the forefront of jazz, and it also laid a path for Gerry Mulligan to take back to California where it would become the template for an entire sub-genre: West Coast Jazz. This music has been released many times, but this package is quite nice, containing the live and studio sides on one disc and adding some interesting liner essays to boot.
The Complete Birth of the Cool -

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