Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet); Kenny Hagood (vocals); Lee Konitz (alto saxophone); Gerry Mulligan (baritone saxophone); Junior Collins, Sandy Siegelstein, Gunther Schuller (French horn); J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding (trombone); John Barber (tuba); John Lewis, Al Haig (piano); Al McKibbon, Joe Shulman, Nelson Boyd (bass); Kenny Clarke, Max Roach (drums).
Producer: Walter Rivers, Pete Rugulo.
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Recorded in New York, New York on January 21 & April 22, 1949 and on March 9, 1950. Originally released on Capitol (762). Includes liner notes by Pete Welding & Gerry Mulligan.
Digitally remastered by Rudy Van Gelder.
This is part of Blue Note's Rudy Van Gelder Editions series.
As Miles Davis came to transcend the influence of Dizzy Gillespie and recognize his own musical voice, he arrived at a terse lyric conception of the trumpet, grounded in Charlie Parker's swinging syncopations. And it was in the course of searching for an appropriate musical corollary that he forged an enduring musical partnership with arranger Gil Evans and a core group of like-minded musicians that yielded three remarkable sessions which have come down to us as BIRTH OF THE COOL.
For Davis and Evans, the challenge was to create a supple new vocabulary out of the angularity of bebop, and greater emphasis on texture and form. By reining in the rhythm, Davis and Evans sought to create a more seamless fabric of written and improvised passages. And by employing tuba, French horn, trombone and trumpet, along with alto and baritone saxophones the Davis Nonet achieved a diaphanous, mellow orchestral texture.
However, the notion of cool as emotional detachment or lack of improvisational heat is somewhat overstated by the title. John Lewis's chart for the opening "Move" is taken at a brisk gallop over a driving Max Roach pulse, animated by deep brass counterpoint. Miles Davis treats his own blues, "Deception," in an almost choral manner, his lovely melodic line snaking through a web of voices. Gerry Mulligan's "Rocker" benefits from the rich contrary motion of his writing, and the big band accents which launch Miles' solo. On "Boplicity," Gil Evans' harmonizes his coy swinging melody with warm, broken voicings, while his spatial, atmospheric chart for the ballad "Moon Dreams" is distinguished by the idiomatic serenity of his voice leading. A masterpiece.
Q (4/01, p.117) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...Each track is short, subtle and self-contained, the most notable being 'Moon Dreams', a lush, mellow take on orchestrated bop..."