Miles Davis
Birth of the Cool



by AnyColour74 USER (29 Reviews)
November 17th, 2006 | 13 replies

Release Date: 1957 | Tracklist

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in school. It was early in the day, first period to be precise, and my buddies and I were sitting in History of Rock and Jazz class. The teacher put on a video about jazz, and famous jazz artists who coincide in the art of jazz. Ten or fifteen minutes into the video, a question is asked to the people who are being interviewed for the video. “Who is the best jazz artist of all time" Names like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, and Benny Goodman started to pop out of the blue. But the majority of the people who were being interviewed said that Miles Davis was the best jazz artist ever. Ever. It’s funny to think about, if he was the best jazz artist ever, think about how many people he has inspired. A scary thought, isn’t it" Think about how much ground Miles Davis has broken. His 1959 masterpiece “Kind Of Blue” is the best selling jazz album of all time , and it has surely inspired at least a few generations of musicans. While the mid to late 50’s saw this trumpeter emerge as the biggest jazz artist on the scene, when and where did Davis start to emerge as the jazz artist that he is now" During the last leg on the 40’s and into the early part of the 50’s, Davis and his nonet entered the studio to record an album for Capitol records entitled “Birth Of The Cool”. “Birth Of The Cool” shows Davis’s early playing style, as most of the album is consisted of bebop ballads, as well as some tunes that have the structure of an early pop song. Though “Birth Of The Cool” wasn’t released until 1957, this is the point in Davis’s career where he started to raise his playing level dramatically.

The song selection on “Birth Of The Cool” is limited to a select few Davis tunes, as most of the tracks are covers. Though they may be covers, Davis gives them a good name, idealizing each tune to perfection. One of the songs Davis covers, entitled simply Godchild, lumbers along fairly heavily with a deep saxophone part which is covered by Davis’s nice legato trumpet leads. Another cover, Israel has a more staccato brass/woodwind leads. The leads are brisk and to the point. A blazing saxophone solo puts the stamp on the great cover, as the piano comes up for a rare visit. Though “Birth Of The Cool” is mostly comprised of cover tracks, Davis does pull out a few of his own songs. Deception is a slower song that showcases the talent of Davis. Adding to the mix of a mostly Davis dominated song is the bass, contributing with a few walking bass lines to boot. The drumming stays the same throughout, though it does utilize experimentation just a tad. Another Davis tune, , is a complicated melodic masterpiece, full with everything, from trademark Davis solos, to an occasional piano blurb. The saxophones and the trumpets fuse perfectly together, combining to make a beautiful layer of harmony. The rhythm section keeps it real, acting as a support for the other sections. Another selection aspect that strengthens many songs on “Birth Of The Cool” is the arranging, courtesy of Gil Evans. Evans worked with Davis on many albums, arranging many songs. The arrangements of “Birth Of The Cool” are not to be reckoned with, as Evans does a great job with them. Good arrangements lead to awesome songs, thus being the case for “Birth Of The Cool”.

The main setup of a jazz band is used on “Birth Of The Cool”, but with a few twists. Accompanying the trumpets and trombones is a French horn and a tuba. Though they are hard to pick out with the tangle up of all the other instruments, you can pick them out on a few songs. Some will be able to notice the tuba on Moon Dances, slowly dancing itself through the majority of the song. The thick of the jazz band, being the trumpets, trombones, and saxophones does not disappoint. Guiding all of the songs on “Birth Of The Cool”, each section of instruments backs up the others cleanly, creating a nice, cool layering affect. The saxophones may get the spotlight on the album, for it seems as if they solo on every composition. And let us not forget about the rhythm section, who leads the other sections away from treachery. The drums are usually at a fast tempo with a tint of experimentation here and there, and the bubbling bass line on each song adds flare to the section. The piano stays in the background for the most part, though it does come up to the surface here and there. All this makes a protective cocoon for the man of the hour, Miles himself. Miles contributes on the majority of the songs with a witty yet simple solo, playing it in an arpeggio-esque manor. The instrumentation is probably the jewel of “Birth Of The Cool”.

“Birth Of The Cool” is a truly groundbreaking album. It’s seminal in the fact that this is the album bebop was really first noticed on. Miles sets an atmosphere like none other, creating a cool yet daring environment. The playing is very tight, blending the sound of typical jazz ensemble instruments with newer instruments used for jazz. On top of the instrumentation, there is not one mundane song off of “Birth Of The Cool”. As well as showing the development of bebop, “Birth Of The Cool” showcases the development of this awesome jazz artist. “Birth Of The Cool” is the album that shot of Miles Davis’s career.


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Comments:Add a Comment 
November 17th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I've been in a Miles sort of mood lately, so I figured I would review this

November 17th 2006


Sweet man, two Miles reviews in two days on Sputnik. I like.

November 17th 2006


Great review. I would have trouble reviewing Miles Davis. I don't know why, I tried before but it was dificult for me to describe it. Him and Jimi Hendrix were really good friends and recorded some stuff (never released). Miles was at Jimi's funeral and wasn't even at his own mothers.
There was also a funny story I read about how when Miles showed up at Jimi's to jam one of Jimi's white friends answered the door and since Miles hated white people he wouldn't come in until Jimi answered the door.

November 17th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I was meaning to review this, it being a Miles album no one had touched yet, but it didn't grab me as much as say In A Silent Way or A Tribute to Jack Johnson. I guess I'm more a fan of later Miles. Still, it is the master...

November 17th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

Solid review too.This Message Edited On 11.18.06

November 17th 2006


Excellent job as usual AC74 :thumb:

November 18th 2006


[quote=Mr. Kite]There was also a funny story I read about how when Miles showed up at Jimi's to jam one of Jimi's white friends answered the door and since Miles hated white people he wouldn't come in until Jimi answered the door.[/quote] Yeah, it's not like he played with McLaughlin or anyone else or anything.

April 23rd 2007


Album Rating: 2.5

I had high hopes for this album but I am a little disappointed, "Bitches Brew" is better.

September 18th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

well bill evans was about as white as fuck as you can get so he must have thrown some of those white-hating morals of his out the window eventually.

Shadowed Reflection
December 20th 2009


also don't forget rudy van gelder was white, and he recorded loads of davis's classic stuff. also nearly every member of davis's band on this album was white, so you can throw that miles hating white people thing out the window. good review by the way, but with cover songs in jazz it's more about taking a rough version of the song and adding to it in the performer's unique way, it works more as a base for the musicians to work off rather than as a song for them to play note by note, so don't be put off if the idea of an album of cover songs doesn't sound like something you'd enjoy, it's very distinctive stuff.

lastly I wouldn't get this if you're expecting it to be like bitches brew, this was nearly 20 years before, and 10 before kind of blue, miles had big works in many different styles of jazz, and this is far different from that.

October 1st 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Definitely in my Miles top 10. Groundbreaking at the time, and has aged surprisingly well. It's actually the earliest album I own, excluding classical

February 8th 2019


Album Rating: 3.0

Even Tutu is better than this.

Digging: Gavin Bryars - The Sinking of the Titanic

March 5th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

Best pre-Columbia Miles by a country mile(s).

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