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The Complete Birth of the Cool Original recording remastered

31 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, May 19, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

These pivotal, way-ahead-of-their-time 1949-1950 nonet recordings (with Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Gil Evans et al ) remain jazz classics-though their sonic quality's always been a bit lacking. But now, thanks to the magic of Mark Levinson's Cello System, they've been remastered to bring out the voicings that make them so incredible. Plus, this release features 11 live tracks recorded over two weeks at the Royal Roost in September 1948-the only gigs this group ever did!

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Birth of the Cool is the first important leader date from Miles Davis, one of jazz's most seminal figures and farsighted practitioners. Having made his reputation in large measure from playing with bop giant Charlie Parker, Davis confounded expectations when he embraced the "cool" arranging style of Gil Evans, an arranger for Claude Thornhill's band. Evans, who was employing unique voicings by adding French horns and tuba to Thornhill's instrumentations, also emphasized a diminished use of vibrato in both reeds and brass, producing a drier, "cool" sound. Two of Evans's arrangements, "Boplicity" and "Moon Dreams," appear on the album. Also involved are baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, who contributed such outstanding tunes as "Jeru" and "Venus de Milo," and Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis. The result is a date that has withstood the tests of time, fashion, and Davis's own extraordinary growth as a performer. An enhanced set, The Complete Birth of the Cool expands the original issue with previously bootlegged live recordings of Davis's nonet at the Royal Roost in New York in 1948. Although the sound quality is far from perfect, the performances are remarkable, and worth the additional expense for the serious fan. --Fred Goodman

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 19, 1998)
  • Original Release Date: May 19, 1998
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Capitol Jazz
  • ASIN: B000006Q6B
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,518 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Manny Hernandez HALL OF FAME on September 27, 2003
Format: Audio CD
In his professional life, Miles Davis was an agent of change and a permanent self critic. Also, he would always surround himself of the best possible musicians (he said, "I'm hiring a [musician] to play, not for what color he is") to help in materializing his musical vision. Leaving behind the enviable position of musical director of Charlie Parker's group, Miles assembled a nonet (several of its members coming from the ranks of Claude Thornhill's Orchestra), Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis among them, and with their help gave birth to the new sound in jazz at the time: the Cool, an attempt to sound like a big band with a significantly smaller ensemble (a nonet, in this case), by means of a collective writing approach.
The album, recorded throughout three sessions between January of 1949 and March of 1950, marked the beginning of a series of outstanding works of Miles along with musical mentor and genius arranger Gil Evans. Its slower and softer sound resonated throughout the jazz world, taking jazz to a new level and influencing musicians all over the place, mostly in California it would help give shape to a mellow sound that would later be called West Coast Jazz (Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, etc.)
It is hard to pick favorite tracks in such a brilliant production. Four different arrangers and a rich assortment of composers, from Davis and Evans, to Mulligan, Lewis, Bud Powell and several others, along with the assorted lineup of musicians (only Davis in trumpet and lead, Mulligan in baritone, Lee Konitz in alto, and John Barber in Tuba were part of all three recording sessions) allow the careful listener to see tunes from a number of different points of view.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "skapunkbluesjazzrock" on August 1, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The Birth of Cool album is the most important album of Davis' earlier works. This album is important for two reasons, one being that this is Davis' first widely noticed album as a leader of a group. The second reason is that this is the album that created the "cool" style of jazz. The remastered edition of The Birth of Cool sounds fresh today, and the band seems to work really well together. This album also showcases the first time that Miles and Gil Evans created an album together, which they would repeat to their success many times. The added live recordings aren't of the best quality, but the quality isn't exactly bad either. This is a very important landmark for Miles Davis, and I recommend fans pick up this album which is probably the most important of his earliest work.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By MikeG on June 12, 2004
Format: Audio CD
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-noun 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 West Coast in the 1950s. That's possibly 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 more ingenious arrangements also create some full-sounding, inventive passages.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. Lund on September 20, 2000
Format: Audio CD
For all their brilliance, the majority of the classic bebop recordings of the mid-late 1940s (by Charlie Parker and his peers) moved along at brisk tempos that made it a little difficult for such modernistic yet lyrical players as Miles Davis to assert their identities and reach their potential.
In what would become a commonplace routine throughout his career, with these 1949-50 BIRTH OF THE COOL sessions Miles revamped his musical surroundings--in this case bebop--to fit his unique trumpet sound. Here Davis usually slowed down the tempo and tended to add more impressionistic colorations...via an expanded, mid-sized ensemble with arrangements by Gil Evans and others. At the same time, Miles retained the advanced harmonic lessons he'd learned from the likes of Parker, Gillespie, and Monk. What Davis sacrificed in velocity he recovered in emotive depth and nuance. These strengths would be further defined--and redefined--by Miles in the coming decades.
The results can be looked at in at least two ways. One, there is a sense that Miles reached his first aesthetic peak here. Secondly--in light of his later habitual strokes of genius--Davis' later music built significantly on what he accomplished here, while never copying these records. To put it another way, these BIRTH OF THE COOL recordings are stand-alone jazz classics. At the same time, in many ways they only hint at Davis' future successes.
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