Top positive review
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A true classic
on 23 December 2010
This album is an absolute classic. It helped establish Miles Davis and Gil Evans in the jazz world and features other great players such as Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz and Max Roach.
A word of warning though if you are new to jazz, know Miles Davis from some of his later albums, or are not a fan of West coast (aka Cool) jazz it may not immediately set your world on fire. However, give the album some time and the superb writing and arrangements should win you over.
It's true that prior to these recordings Miles had struggled as a Charlie Parker sideman with the speed of Parkers bop playing. Indeed it could be said that throughout his lengthy career Miles best playing was on slow or mid paced numbers that allowed his lyricism to shine. Birth of the cool was certainly more laid back than Parkers bop and Miles playing is superb throughout.
The other reasons that the album is a classic though are the strong writing and the excellent arrangements by Gil Evans that are intelligent and multi-layered yet overall the tracks are all concise. A nonet is used and the larger horn section, including french horn and tuba, adds depth to the arrangements. The arrangements were certainly in a different direction to the the big band and swing arrangements that had gone before and the album had a huge affect on later arrangers, whilst it became common to use tuba and french horn in extended mid size groups.
Overall a truly classic jazz album. My only complaint is the inclusion of Darn that Dream the only vocal track on the album. The vocal style sounds incredibly dated and has me reaching for the stop button as quick as a flash.