More Miles: Complete ‘Birth Of The Cool’ Sessions Out June 7


All of Miles Davis’ recordings with his namesake nonet are compiled on The Complete Birth Of The Cool.

(Photo: ©Herman Leonard Photography, LLC)

The iconic Birth Of The Cool is about to get a little cooler. A new compilation will allow Miles Davis fans to take a deeper dive into the landmark album.

Slated for a June 7 release by Blue Note/UMe, The Complete Birth Of The Cool chronicles the brief, yet deeply influential, work by the Miles Davis Nonet. The new set—which will be available digitally, on CD and as a double-LP—compiles all the music created by this ensemble. The new collection includes 12 sides the musicians recorded in 1949–’50, as well as the ensemble’s only extant live recordings. The new release also marks the first time since 1957 that the recordings have been remastered for vinyl, and the first time that all the Birth Of The Cool performances—studio and live—are available together on LP. The set’s booklet comes filled with archival photographs and a new, extensive essay by music historian Ashley Kahn.

Among the group of like-minded jazz modernists who formed the groundbreaking collective were Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Max Roach, John Lewis, arranger/composer Gil Evans and 22-year-old Davis, who became the project’s leader. The work this nine-piece troupe created generated little notice at first, but seven years later, when the music was collected on a full LP for the first time, listeners reacted enthusiastically to Birth Of The Cool.

The seeds of the project were planted in the Manhattan basement apartment of Evans, who hosted informal meetings in which ideas about arranging, jazz and classical music were shared. The collaboration of Evans and Davis in this humble location led not only to Birth Of The Cool, but presaged future collaborations that also would be hailed around the globe: Miles Ahead, Porgy And Bess and Sketches Of Spain.

Kahn’s essay explores Davis and Evans’ partnership, as well as the perceptive support of Capitol Records producer Pete Rugolo, who recorded the group initially, oversaw the album’s release and is credited with coming up with the title, Birth Of The Cool. The importance of Davis’ fellow soloist, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, also is examined in Kahn’s essay, with new comments from the jazz legend.

To the ears of music fans in 1949, the sound of Birth Of The Cool was as entrancing as it was strange: intricate in its big band arrangements, but with solos and a rhythm section breathing the fire of bebop. There were instruments then-familiar and unfamiliar in the jazz world, including French horn and tuba. The melodies were hummable, but had unusual titles, like “Godchild,” “Venus De Milo” and “Jeru.” Seven decades later, jazz musicians still are playing these tunes, and fans still avidly study it, connecting the dots between where Davis was and where he was headed.

The Complete Birth Of The Cool is available for pre-order. DB

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