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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 October 2013
This year 2000 reissue of the original 1957 Miles Davis (nonet) album, which itself was a 'collection' of earlier sessions recorded over three separate dates in the years 1949 and 1950, whilst making for highly impressive listening in its own right, is now rightly regarded as one of the most influential jazz recordings of its era. Not only did Birth Of The Cool (probably too self-aggrandising, not to say meaningless, a title to be honest, despite the album's later significance) serve to lay the groundwork for some of the key phases of Davis' own musical development (most notably his collaboration with Gil Evans, who also assumes some of the composing and arranging duties here) but also a good deal of small band jazz that followed, as well as some of the more expansive developments of the likes of Charles Mingus - all the more remarkable to think that band leader Davis was only 23 at the time!

Here the three incarnations of Davis' nonet, of which his horn and Gerry Mulligan's baritone sax are ever present (and, arguably, most influential), along with Lee Konitz's alto sax and John Barber's tuba, serve to create an intoxicating band sound, in which improvisation and pre-arrangement strike a near perfect balance, and the use of polyphonic 'harmony playing', across the instruments, was revolutionary for the time (and helped achieve Davis' ambition that the instruments should sound like 'human voices singing').

Of the 12 tunes included (all running to around 3 minutes), Mulligan takes the most prominent role in terms of arrangement (Godchild, Deception, Jeru, Venus De Milo, Rocker and Darn That Dream), whilst he (Jeru, Venus De Milo and Rocker) and Miles (Budo and Deception) also penned the most numbers. Although, for me, there is virtually not a weak moment here (although Darn That Dream, with Kenny Hagood's vocal does feel slightly out of place), if I had to pick favourites I would opt for the vibrant opener Denzil Best's Move (featuring a great solo from Konitz), Evans' beautiful arrangement of Moon Dreams (like something straight off Miles Ahead), the exquisite tone from Davis' horn on his own composition Deception, the seamless ensemble playing on Mulligan's Rocker (and the man's baritone 'break') and the intoxicating swing of John Lewis' Rouge (featuring a nice piano solo by the man himself).
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on 6 March 2017
If you don't know the music then you should and the title says it all.
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on 3 April 2017
terrific apart from last track ruined by some dopey vocals
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on 17 May 2017
What can I say, it's Miles Davis, how can it not be brilliant.
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on 10 April 2014
Great tracks with melodies ranging from haunting to playful, arranged masterfully for an ensemble of all star musicians. What's not to like?
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on 31 July 2015
Amazingly quick service, perfect product.
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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.
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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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 September 2013
Whilst there is a more comprehensive collection in 'The Complete Birth of the Cool' available this cost so little it was a real steal. Featuring both sides of six 78rpm singles these were Miles' first ventures leading a band in his own right. Whilst the sound can fairly be called historic it is very listenable and well digitised. It's great to hear the genius that was Miles Davis before he released a series of simply classic albums throughout the 1950's. A worthwhile purchase but maybe not the ideal starting point if you are just getting into 'The Man with the Horn'
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on 26 November 2004
If you're new to jazz, you can easily be swayed away from the genre by stuff that sounds like a tray of dropped cutlery.
This, however, is a sheer joy to listen to - whether dipping a tentative toe into the ocean that is jazz, or if your beard smells of real ale and your favourite chords are augumented thirteenths.
The remarkable consensus amongst critics that this is one of the finest jazz albums made goes to show how strong it is. It is a major achievement that even jazz critics can't be snobbish about this - a groundbreaking record made in 1949 that still sounds fresh.
Buy - you will not be disappointed.
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