Sunday, November 11, 2007

Miles Davis - The Birth Of Cool

Miles Davis, "Jeru" (YSI link)

Miles Davis, "Boplicity" (YSI link)

Miles Davis, "Rouge" (YSI link)

It's been an rough week here at Pound for Pound HQ, we've been sick now for more than a week and it's getting old. It has been nice, though, chilling out for a weekend, attempting the dreaded stay-in on Saturday night home alone with only your thoughts and fears thing. I survived that; best of all, it gave me a chance to listen to lots of music, not just the newest of the new stuff but older stuff and genres that I've always listened to but haven't had a chance to recently. I felt like it would be a fun time to start introducing that stuff here, perhaps even make it a weekend thing or a regular in the weekday rotation.

I decided to start with jazz and one of its classic albums, Miles Davis' Birth Of Cool. No real reason for this starting point, other than the fact that it was one of a handful of records that made me fall in love with the music and I consider it to be one of the best places to start listening to jazz.

First, a little background. This is listed as a Miles Davis release, but it's a little more than that. While it features the band that Miles brought together in the late 1940s and led, Gil Evans played a pivotal role advising the group and writing music for it. Evans was one of the first to arrange be-bop songs for orchestras and would lead the way in the reaction away from the hyper sounds of be-bop to the 'cooler' sounds that this album initiated. I like to think of it as East Coast cool, as opposed to the West Coast cool movement that ran with this sound, it's a much more edgy sound than the stuff that Chet Baker et al would put out.

Anyway, why would I make this the first jazz post? Mainly because I feel like jazz is such a daunting thing to try to get into, it's nice to hear this album which features music that is so beautiful and swinging. The use of instruments like the French horns and tuba give it a unique and almost classical feel, the slower pacing and clean tones also make for an easy listening experience. Also, I feel like Miles Davis has always been the most interesting jazz man for me, one of those figures who stands out in musical history as an innovator. This album is his first as a leader and the first time he would help change the direction of the genre, something he would do many more times in the ensuing decades. Finally, there's so many amazing players on this album, guys like Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Max Roach and John Lewis to name a few who are pivotal figures that make for a great roadmap to tracing the history of jazz.

Give a listen to the above tracks from the original LP release and let me know what you think. I've chosen a song a piece for the three most famous composers on the album - Gerry Mulligan ("Jeru"), Gil Evans ("Boplicity") and John Lewis ("Rouge"). While the album always gets discussed for its historical significance, don't get it twisted. These are amazing tunes, the kind that you get stuck in your head and have you humming them on the subway, looking like a crazy person. Buy a copy of the The Complete Birth Of Cool, which gives the added bonus of the only known live recordings of the band. We'll try to do a post on those live versions later in the week and start adding more jazz into the mix in general. Yeah!

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Good post, jazz is the greatest musical form there is.