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Music

Birth of the Cool
from Blue Note Records

Birth of the Cool

The first important leader date from 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 features previously bootlegged live recordings of the 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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