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on 1 August 2017
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on 30 March 2017
Excellent CD and service
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on 6 June 2014
If we were talking about a painting or piece of pottery from 1950 we would call it an antique - that's 64 years ago. A person born then would be an old age pensioner now! And though parts of this album do sound a bit dated - particularly the singer and announcer, Miles sounds as fresh as ever.

It is fascinating to hear Cool emerging from Swing and Bebop and to try and imagine what it sounded like to jazz fans of the time. Probably after the dazzling pyrotechnics of Bebop it came as a soothing - maybe even meditative - relief. Jazz had always been an extrovert music - for the most part music for dancing to. This began to change with Ellington's compositions. However, the real change to an introvert music came with Miles hauntingly beautiful sound and Gil Evans arrangements which express the nuanced subtleties, complexity and neuroses of man in the atomic age. In a sense Cool is the music of the damaged man who has lost the old certainties - thanks partly to Nietzsche - but mainly two catastrophic world wars which left him unable to sing with confidence any more. Miles said he could not bear to be around confident people and listening to his music you can hear why.

This is undoubtedly a great album - not Miles' best but important for the direction it was to aim jazz in.
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on 5 January 2004
The music on this CD was recorded in 1949/50, but acquired its famous album title only retrospectively, in 1957. As a jazz term, ‘cool’ means something more specific than the vague, all-purpose adjective it has since become. It came to particular prominence in the 1950s to describe a more cerebral, less impassioned way of playing jazz. It’s generally supposed that these sessions were part of the inspiration for the ‘cool school’ of jazz.which flourished especially on the American west coast in the 1950s. That’s the main reason for the historical importance of the ‘Birth of the Cool’ sessions and the album may therefore be of more appeal to those interested in the historical development of jazz than to listeners who merely enjoy Miles’s own playing.
The historical interest centres primarily on these pieces as examples of jazz composition and arrangement. Along with the work of composer-arranger Tadd Dameron and some of Gil Evans’s arranging for the Claude Thornhill Band, these scores were innovative in adapting the procedures of ‘Be-Bop’ to orchestrated jazz and in the ways in which they deployed the instruments of the nine-piece band, which included, unusually, French horn and tuba alongside trumpet, trombone and alto and baritone saxes. They skilfully exploit the variety of timbres and tone colours to create a sound suggestive of a larger band. This is especially true of Evans’s pieces, which show his interest in rich, unusual and shifting chord voicings, although Mulligan’s arrangements also create some full-sounding, inventive passages. There’s a brilliant moment in Evans’s arrangement of ‘Boplicity’ when, within the space of just a few bars, a thematic figure spreads through the instrumentation with a kind of ‘rippling’ effect as a bridging section between Mulligan’s and Miles’s solos. It is inspired scoring in its own right, but it also seems to anticipate in miniature some of what Evans was later to do with larger jazz orchestras. His slow ballad arrangement, ‘Moondreams’, makes use of a favourite Evans technique of varying the chord voicings for different sections of a composition, to give the piece a sense of variety and continuous development. In the final bars he also employs a kind of ‘impressionist’ technique when the music seems to dissolve into little asymmetrical fragments of melody and rhythm before resolving itself in a brief, quiet coda.
Some of the other tracks – like John Lewis’s arrangement of the up-tempo, ‘Move’ - are entertaining as scaled-down ‘big-band’ performances without being as strikingly original as Evans’s scores. John Carisi’s contribution, ‘Israel’, is one of the most adventurous themes on the album, seeming to point a way forward from ‘Be-Bop’ to a more advanced harmonic style, but doing so by means of a skilful variation on one of jazz’s most ‘traditional’ forms, the 12-bar blues. It may be that Gerry Mulligan’s arrangements tend to be underrated by comparison with Evans’s - perhaps because they sound more influenced by the styles and procedures of mainstream jazz. There was often in Mulligan’s composing-arranging and his baritone sax playing something of the feeling of ‘traditional’ jazz with its bouncing, four-square rhythms (in ‘Jeru’ and ‘Godchild’, for example). But his scores have their innovative touches, like the rhythmic and harmonic ‘dislocation’ he gives to the middle-eight section of ‘Jeru’. In their own right they are characterful, enjoyable pieces, and since he contributed most of the arrangements he was a major factor in the success of the album and its subsequent influence. He contributes an interesting essay in reminiscence of the sessions as an addition to the liner notes.
Another interesting ‘historical’ dimension of Birth of the Cool is the collaboration of three composer-musicians who in the 1950s went on to make major contributions to modern jazz through their subsequent individual projects: Lewis with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Mulligan with his pianoless quartets and Concert Jazz Band, and Evans with his later collaborations with Miles and others.
This was, I believe, Miles’s first album under his own name; but it’s his early-fifties small-group sessions that best document his progress as a jazz improviser, particularly those which produced such classics as “Walkin”, “Bemsha Swing” and “Bags’ Groove”. Arguably, Miles had been a ‘cool’ musician from the start of his career with Charlie Parker. If so, these sessions can be seen as part of a process (begun during his time with Parker) of his adapting the ‘hot’ medium of Be-Bop to his own stylistic purposes. However, the liner note argues a contrary view: that Miles could not really be categorised as a ‘cool’ player. For me, Miles’s improvised solos here are less interesting than his later work was to become, when the overt expression of feeling had became more prominent in his music. He was some way from developing that individual sound, with its brooding ‘flat’ tonality and emotive colouring, which from the late 1950s was to make him one of the most immediately identifiable soloists in jazz. An additional limitation is that the soloists were restricted to very short solos, so that one of the strengths in Miles’s later music – his ability to ‘build’ an improvisation over two or more choruses – was not possible in these sessions. Nevertheless, there are some well-constructed solos from Miles, especially on “Jeru”, “Godchild” and “Rocker”, suggesting that the need for brevity encouraged him to make short solos as structured and ‘eventful’ as he could.
So, historically significant though it is, Birth of the Cool won’t necessarily appeal to those who have discovered Miles’s music via Kind of Blue, Milestones, Sketches of Spain, etc. Less immediate in its appeal than that later work, it is perhaps music that you have to ‘learn to like’ – though maybe that’s generally true of modern jazz.
The more devoted of Miles's fans will welcome the inclusion, on this 'complete edition', of the live, ‘Royal Roost’ performances by the band. As they were ‘unofficial’ recordings of radio broadcasts, the sound is poorer than on the studio sessions, but some of the playing has more vitality.
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on 19 September 2017
It is what it says on the cover: so many great musicians changing the face of jazz. It's always a pleasure to listen to these tracks although I have some reservations about the vocal on Darn that Dream.
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Back in 1949/50, Miles Davis and eight friends recorded 3 sessions. The results were released as singles, then collected together and released in 1957 as `Birth Of The Cool' under the name of Miles Davis. But the other names in the group should not be overlooked, they read like a who's who of 50's and 60's cool and freeform jazz, with people like Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach and Gil Evans all making important contributions.

Davis had just finished a turbulent period as a sideman to Charlie Parker, where he seems to have felt restricted and out of place. The aim of these recordings appears to have been to allow each musician and arranger to express themselves fully and comfortably in a relaxed atmosphere.

Stylistically this was a move away from the bebop that most of the group had recorded previously, and truly was the start of the `Cool' hard bop movement that moved away from the frenetic phrasings of bebop and gave way to longer, more complex pieces with experimentations in rhythm, sometimes dissonance and interesting interactions between the group members. But the key word seems to be `relaxed'.

Still limited to the three minute single format there isn't quite the room for each member to stretch out as there would be when Miles embraced the LP format. This is a bit of a shame given the number of musicians involved, and the odd range of instruments played (not many jazz tracks featured tuba or French horn since the early days of Armstrong's hot fives and sevens), but this is still an impressive album that really lays down the vision that Miles had for his musical future, and delivers 11 tracks of inventive, interesting and gripping cool jazz. I say 11 tracks because the sole vocal track (the album closer `Darn That Dream') is, for me, a real dud that should have been left out as it is totally at odds with the mood of the rest of the album.

Greater things were to come in the form of `Kind Of Blue' and `In a Silent Way', where Miles had the longer time on record to really stretch out and sublimate his musical vision, but this is still pretty strong stuff. It is also an important document in the history of Jazz, as it lays down the foundations for the biggest movement of the latter part of the twentieth century. 4 stars.
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on 29 April 2013
A very interesting compilation of Miles Davis' varying styles - mellifluous and discordant progressive jazz.. It was a novel experience listening to this particular cd.
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on 31 May 2006
There is no going wrong for this man, yet another amazing album that has been put together, this time with his organization; every tune here is crammed with energy and pace, a pleasure to listen to again and again
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on 23 December 2014
This item is brilliant. I shall be recommending the seller to others.
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on 12 January 2015
Al well!
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