Cool Jazz

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Cool jazz arose slowly in the late 40s when many jazz musicians realised there was no point in following in the fast paced be-bop footsteps of Diz and Bird and began to try a more relaxed and quieter approach to playing. Early examples of cool jazz came from Miles Davis' Nonet and Lenny Tristano's group, while later practitioners like Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker showed up on the west coast where cool jazz was often referred to as west coast jazz.

Many cool jazz saxophonists looked to the pre-bop languid sax style of Lester Young for inspiration. Also, 3rd Stream influenced arrangements that featured Baroque style counterpoint became popular during the cool era. One lasting innovation of the cool genre is the idea of concert hall influenced 'chamber jazz' as pioneered by The Modern Jazz Quartet. For some critics, west coast jazz seemed like a souless sell-out compared to the more challenging and urban flavored be-bop of New York City. In 1952 Miles Davis was one of the first 'cool' band leaders to lead the way to a more aggressive next phase in jazz, hard bop.

Cool jazz began to fade before the arrival of fusion and never made a comeback afterwards. Today Cool Jazz is a retro style that defines a certain time and place in jazz history, but is still played by some.

cool jazz top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue Album Cover Kind of Blue
MILES DAVIS
4.90 | 106 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Sunday at the Village Vanguard (aka Live At The Village Vanguard) Album Cover Sunday at the Village Vanguard (aka Live At The Village Vanguard)
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.86 | 12 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Waltz for Debby Album Cover Waltz for Debby
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.80 | 10 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Time Out Album Cover Time Out
DAVE BRUBECK
4.67 | 52 ratings
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MILES DAVIS My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert Album Cover My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert
MILES DAVIS
4.76 | 6 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Jazz Impressions of Japan Album Cover Jazz Impressions of Japan
DAVE BRUBECK
4.76 | 6 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK The New Brubeck Quartet Live At Montreux Album Cover The New Brubeck Quartet Live At Montreux
DAVE BRUBECK
4.95 | 3 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Miles Ahead (with Gil Evans) Album Cover Miles Ahead (with Gil Evans)
MILES DAVIS
4.52 | 10 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Explorations Album Cover Explorations
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.10 | 11 ratings
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JIM HALL Concierto Album Cover Concierto
JIM HALL
4.09 | 4 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Portrait In Jazz Album Cover Portrait In Jazz
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.03 | 8 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Jasmine (with Charlie Haden) Album Cover Jasmine (with Charlie Haden)
KEITH JARRETT
4.00 | 8 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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Complete Small Group Sessions
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The Ultimate Playlist
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cool jazz Music Reviews

MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue

Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz
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frankbernardi22
What was "Kind of Blue" at the time of its very first appearance in records shops? What is the same massified object (d'art, of course) today, with its reduced cd cover (but vinyl copies penetrate the market, giving the illusion of living in the past. No bonus file included there, but who cares - unless you aim to menace the stability of your compact disc tower, having the two versions)? ... so, the past. Or do you prefer to read the consumed golden years with the lens of today? "Kind of Blue" is a Columbia production, the Moloch company able to put a chain around Dark Magus ankle for 30 years. Before there was Prestige, the label of junkies (rules: to pay less, to pay soon after, to pay cash - and we know why...). But it was time for youth craziness to end and so Miles wrote his immediate (repeat: immediate) future in a couple of seances: we had the "present continuous tense" tetralogy (...ing, ...ing, ...ing, ...ing). Prestige seemed satisfied and Miles and his here and there collected combo were free for the new attic. From october 1955 to september 1958, the quintet, with Trane always on tenor, cut a number of tunes feeding famous studio lps, alive albums and collections (like "Circle in the round" and "The Columbia Years"). But mean "crime" is planned for March 2 and April 22, 1959. The scene: NYC, Columbia 30th Street Studio. Producer Irving Townsend, engineer Fred Plaut. That's all. In those two days, recording machines, feeling that Miles and friends were giving birth to a brand new Golden Boy, and deeply scared for that, decided not to obey causing a little "sharpness" in the masters, then corrected by time and man.

Since its birth "Kind of Blue" was something different. After those studio sessions Coltrane will be at Columbia 30th street only for two takes of "My Prince", leaving once for all the boys and keeping on searching the true core of life (but fragmented "Giant Steps" he did after "Kind of Blue" could not satisfy him). "Kind of Blue" was the winner. Miles Davis was the winner. The week end listener who plays "Kind of Blue", ingnore "Giant Steps" - and maybe "Milestones" too... . It's "Kind of Blue" turntables' favourite thing (and in cars?) and it's Miles' triumph. Sub - commander Evans (the 2nd Evans in Miles' life), whose contribution in the whole plot is still under investigation today, writes on back cover that tunes in this long player are like Japanese paints: no interrupted stroke or everything will be destroyed. As a result, no complex composition, but maybe something more difficult: the absence for musicians of a safe net, an endless challenge. Was he writing Miles' agenda for the next decades?

MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue

Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
VerticalUprising
Jazz with pizzazz- a phrase with many 'z's but in reference to an artist that keeps doesn't let you sleep a wink.

Miles Davis was a pioneer for his time, undoubtedly. Although not as progressively experimental as future jazz fusion bands like Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Davis (among a other notable jazz groups/musicians) did a complete turnover on the jazz scene around the end of the 50's and the rest of the 60's with unheard-of experimentation. Incomprehensible by many of the jazz critics at the time, artists like Davis were scolded for changing the industry in such a drastic way, but over time garnered sensational praise with how revolutionary they were.

While not exactly jazz-rock fusion like electric period Davis, Kind of Blue is no doubt progressive jazz. While following typical 4/4 standard (mainly with the drumming by Jimmy Cobb), the famous dual saxophonists John Coltrane and "Cannonball" Adderley tender an eclectic vocal-like melody of illustrious toots in a back-and-forth sort of way. They are really what make this album what it is, as they can change in a snap without hesitation from soft to booming. Miles Davis himself is very similar, except as the royal trumpeter of this engagement hitting the highest notes. The brass section really does a good conjoined job of throwing up some unique patterns unseen on most jazz albums of the time. A problem much jazz faces is that sometimes the saxophone/trumpet/really any kind of brass overcomes all other instruments. This means it's up to the brass to be unique with such a mainline part, and much like vocals, if not done correctly can lead to some extremely irritating music. This is untrue of Kind of Blue- Davis, Coltrane, and Cannonball make for a really unique and creative experience that doesn't fade in quality even after all these years.

Enough about the brass, how's the rest of the band? Cobb is a standard drummer but I laud him for his vitality to keep up a clean beat even when faced with a doozy like 'All Blues', an eleven minute epic. Paul Chambers on bass and Bill Evans (and Wynton Kelly even though he only plays on track two) on the keys really go hand in hand as the backup. They rarely get moments to shine as a fronting instrument, they always manage to keep a cool and laidback atmosphere, really working well with the idea of cool-jazz better than most.

Kind of Blue is not fusion in the slightest but it is undeniably a classic. It deserves reverence and I suggest you hasten to check it out.

DAVE BRUBECK Time Out

Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz
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VerticalUprising
The devil's jazz.

Why such a name? Well originally when Dave Brubeck was going to release this little album Columbia was against it. The album was quite experimental for the time, featuring some wacky time signatures that weren't exactly common such as 5/4 or 6/4. It was released nonetheless to some criticism of Brubeck's work and accusations that he had tampered with the jazz scene. Looking back though it is one of the best jazz albums ever recorded. Though it features a small tracklist, Time Out takes advantage of it's mere seven tracks to dole out some of NYC's coolest jazz of the fifties. The album was recorded in the time considered to be the "classic quartet lineup" which lasted from 1958-1968 and features Joe Morello's aforementioned abstract time signatures. Brubeck himself does a good job at the piano as usual, but Desmond and Wright are the main reason that the music is as relaxed as it is. Perhaps the wildest the album gets is on 'Take Five', where the music really starts breaking the mold with one of my favorite songs played in minor ever. Unsurprisingly, the song became somewhat of a landmark on late fifties jazz. In conclusion, Time Out is a legendary album that anyone calling themselves music aficionados should buy and cherish forever.

MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue

Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
The birth of the cool cats club

The year 1959 is often credited as being the most creative single year in jazz history when decades of trends and slowly evolving developments were suddenly turned upside down by several independently minded jazz musicians who suddenly decided that the norm was just not cool anymore. There was of course the riveting free jazz experimentation of Ornette Coleman with his groundbreaking “The Shape Of Jazz To Come,” the cool jazz time signature explorations of The Dave Brubeck Quartet on “Take Five” as well as John Coltrane offering his reinterpretations of just how the saxophone should be played on his phenomenal “Giant Steps,” but after all the creative dust settled and the 20/20 hind sight of history slowly coalesced into some sort of consensus, it was in the end MILES DAVIS who received the greatest accolades for his groundbreaking emphasis on the full-on emergence into the world of modal jazz, which of course is the style of jazz that incorporates musical modes as harmonic framework over fixed chord progressions. In short, MILES DAVIS had spent the 50s pretty much keeping up with the trends of jazz and perfecting them, but by 1959 and with the release of KIND OF BLUE, he finally became the leader of the pack and this release precisely marks the exact time period when he proved his genius of taking the reigns and leading the musical world into his own vision which in the long run would become one of the most revered and influential albums (not just jazz) of all of music history. Oh, and the best selling jazz album ever as well. Not too shabby!

What it all boils down to is that DAVIS was growing weary of jazz becoming an Olympic marathon where every musician had to compete to outdo the other. KIND OF BLUE was in effect a return to the soul of the musical movement that began way back with Scott Joplin who set up the proto-jazz ragtime movement that created an uplifting musical development that would stir the soul as well as bedazzle the technically minded in one fell swoop. This was a statement that it was time to revert back to the art of cooperation over competition where the sum of the parts of the musical contributions would coalesce into a much stronger statement than would the bombastic meanderings of the individual performers trying to one-up his fellow player. KIND OF BLUE shouted this out in full vehemence and although he was overshadowed by the other developments of jazz that occurred in the same year of release, MILES DAVIS had the last laugh by having KIND OF BLUE stand out over the decades as one of the most influential and best selling jazz albums ever to grace the entire genre which spans more decades than any other modern musical art form. While the modal jazz thing had been done before including by DAVIS himself as recently as his 1958 “Milestones,” it was only on KIND OF BLUE that DAVIS devoted an entire album exclusively to the development of it.

Musically this is a supergroup of talented musicians before there were supergroups and before most of these guys were famous in their own right. KIND OF BLUE is in effect a spawning ground for many greats to emulate. You couldn’t ask for a better lineup with DAVIS leading on his signature trumpet. Not only does this album showcase the holy trinity brass fraternization of DAVIS in unison with Cannonball Adderley on alto sax and the great John Coltrane delivering his tenor sax but also delivers the equally riveting double bass rhythmic stabilizing effects of Paul Chambers in cahoots with the percussive adroitness of Jimmy Cobb all dressed up with the piano accompaniment of Bill Evans (with Wynton Kelly briefly taking over on “Freddie Freeloader”). In effect, what we ultimately experience of these musicians is the achemizing effect of their talents into a much greater whole which is nothing short of a musical miracle of sorts. From the very first notes on piano by Bill Evans on “So What” to the final wailing sax notes of “Flamenco Sketches” listener is presented a band in perfect unison together. DAVIS purportedly entered the studio in early 1959 and only gave the musicians the rudimentary basics of what was to come and instructed them to “feel” their way through the darkness using only their musical intuition to find their way. Many of these tracks have no set melody and are only structured by certain chord progressions using improvisation over the different modes. This semi-structure with creative spontaneity where everything went right is one of the many reasons why KIND OF BLUE ranks high in not only jazz musician’s greatest albums of all time but with a majority of music lover’s outside the realms of jazz as well. KIND OF BLUE is one of those touched-by-the-gods type of albums where despite all the obstacles and distractions that could have arisen were put aside for a brief moment of time where creative expression reigned free without impediments thus becoming a true inspiration for musicians in myriad genres.

OK, so what’s the fuss about this album? REALLY? I mean there is a major difference between understanding that a certain landmark album is a cornerstone in historical development and worthy of historical appreciation and actually enjoying it as an interesting listening experience. Well, i have to admit that being someone born after the period and not even getting to hearing this until decades later, that i was one who respected it, much preferring the venomous bite of the hard bop and Dixieland jazz that came before over the slow tempo and chilled cool jazz releases that were initiated by this release. But after many listens, all the barriers have broken down and KIND OF BLUE is sort of like a tick that subtly inserts its fangs into your neck and slowly injects its essence into your blood in a profound way and like lyme disease incubates in your DNA until one day when you throw this on for a spin just to feel a patriotic musical duty, suddenly has the ability to pry open all prejudices and simply infuse the listening capabilities with sweet sensual melodies and genuine enjoyment of its original intentional uplifting mojo. While this has mostly been a 4 star album for me for most of my acquaintance, in the end i have finally succumbed to the majesty of it all and while KIND OF BLUE will not even make my top list of MILES DAVIS favorites list, there is no doubt that this is indeed the touted masterpiece that it has been deemed for it truly does capture a unique spirit that is extremely rare where all the elements come together with a healthy dose of divine intervention to create a veritable musical transcendental phenomenon.

Basically if this isn’t gelling with your musical sensibilities, take it from a metal and prog rock lover who had to back peddle to appreciate the more sensual side of roots music to understand where such releases as KIND OF BLUE were coming from, but ultimately once properly injected with all its magic in enough doses, i can honestly say that this music clicked with me in a most profound way. Multiple listens are needed to fully understand the true intent and accomplishments of this album. Jazz is a most complex musical art form in any respect and although the cool modal jazz may sound simplistic in comparison to some of the hard bop and avant-garde jazz releases of the era, there is much to glean from the experience that does not make itself apparent upon first or even second listen. While KIND OF BLUE may never be deemed the most complex musical offering of the ages, it does reach a certain balance in taming complexity for its own sake as well as creating melodies on demand as the musicians performing felt appropriate for this fleeting moment in time. For whatever reason, the final product resulted in establishing itself as a classic of the 20th century that not only punctuated a clear delineation of jazz development in the timeline but more simply created a cavorting gambol of musical expression that has literally reverberated throughout the decades.

BILL EVANS (PIANO) Waltz for Debby

Live album · 1961 · Cool Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
liontime
There's a wonderful, crystalline atmosphere contained in these six tracks. All were recorded (beautifully) live; soft audience chatter and glassware can be heard intermittently throughout.

Along with "Live at the Village Vanguard" this is the definitive Bill Evans. The title track is one of the most revered and adored modern jazz standards. Plus there's a tremendous take on Miles' Milestones at the end.

Evans carries you to a time and place of content stasis with his relaxed, cathartic playing. He's never aggressive yet he remains stimulating all throughout. Put this on Sunday morning or Friday afternoon when you want to amplify good vibrations. Good for mixed company, or solitary listening.

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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Albums with 30 ratings and more
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