Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Birth of The Cool (1949)

Today in 1949, the Miles Davis Nonet recorded the second of three sessions which would later be repacked and marketed by Capitol Records as "The Birth of the Cool" at WOR Studios in New York City.  The first session was in January of 1949 and the final session was almost a year later.  Most of the sides were released as 78 rpm 10-inch shellac singles and then subsequently compiled on 10-inch (1953) and 12-inch (1957) LPs.  It's this last reissue that gave the group the moniker it is known as, albeit posthumously. 

Much has been written about Davis, Gil Evans's "salon", the band, and the studio.  Some like to paint it out to be a pivot point in Modern Jazz away from a populist form of entertainment and in the direction of the "America's Classical Music" that many consider it to be today.  Some like to "blame" it for the cool school of jazz - which has been unjustly derided in recent history in an effort to prop up a mythos based on East Coast Hard Bop and Jazz-Funk traditions.  But taken at face value the recordings are very interesting and quite musically satisfying, neatly encapsulating many ideas which were obviously floating around at the time.  Add a little bit of history to the mix and it clearly was a crossroads of sorts - or perhaps more appropriately a point of departure. 

Photo by Marcel Fleiss; Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Kenny Clarke on stage at Birdland, NYC c. 1950 or 1951.  The "Birth of the Cool" band only performed one engagement, in August or September 1948 at the Royal Roost as the Miles Davis Band.  Broadcast recordings from that engagement do survive and were officially released as part of the 1998 CD reissue of the studio recordings.  

Sartorial Sidebar:  Davis had already made the transition to a more ivy league style and it was just the beginning of the decade.  This somewhat detracts from this article in which the Andover Shop hints at having a larger role in his image closer to the middle of the decade. Still worth the read though and an interesting perspective.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thermal Baths Vals (1996)

Congratulations to Pritzker Prize winner Peter Zumthor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Three Little Bops (1957)

Happy Birthday Shorty Rogers!
Cartoon Credits Here

Friday, April 10, 2009

Journey Into Jazz (1964)

Sorry to jump back to black & white (and another jazz post for that matter). But I have been looking for the full clip of this for quite some time.  It's Leonard Bernstein & the New York Philharmonic performing Gunther Schuller's "Journey into Jazz" featuring Eric Dolphy, Benny Golson, Richard Davis, and Don Ellis taken from a 1964 television broadcast.  I know I have said this before, but this is really worth sitting through:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Black Reflections by Franz Kline (1959)

Oil on paper.  Image courtesy of The Boston Globe.  All this monochrome was making my eyes hurt.  It's Spring for chrissakes!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Rouse, Art Taylor, & Randy Weston (April 6th)

What a day for birthdays...

Photo (LA, 1953) by Bob Willoughby

Photo (NYC, 1948) by William Gottlieb

Photo by (NJ, 1957) by Francis Wolff

Photo (NYC, 1957) by Ted Williams

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bud Shank (1926-2009)

Chet & Bud, LA, 1954, photo by Bob Willoughby

Rest in Peace, Bud

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flamingo by Alexander Calder (1973)

Photo by Raniero Tazzi

Barney Kessel Trio (1962)

I've been digging deeper into Charlie Christian lately and have been re-evaluating some of those guys he most heavily influenced. I haven't given Barney Kessel a lot of air time around the flat in the past, but that has been changing. I've always respected him - but some of his tracks are downright top notch. Here's a clip featuring Kessel's tight 1962 trio with the legendary Stan Levey on drums (anyone who held down a regular gig in Charlie Parker's group is legendary in my book). What more is that I am 90% sure this was taken from Steve Allen's "Jazz Scene U.S.A." hosted by none other than Oscar Brown, Jr. (aka THE MAN). OBJ is absent from the clip, but he is with us always in spirit.