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

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MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue Album Cover Kind of Blue
MILES DAVIS
4.81 | 110 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Waltz for Debby Album Cover Waltz for Debby
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.93 | 11 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)
4.87 | 14 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Time Out Album Cover Time Out
DAVE BRUBECK
4.56 | 54 ratings
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THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET Django Album Cover Django
THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET
4.79 | 5 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
4.67 | 3 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Jazz Impressions of Japan Album Cover Jazz Impressions of Japan
DAVE BRUBECK
4.44 | 8 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Explorations Album Cover Explorations
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.35 | 12 ratings
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ZOOT SIMS Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel: Quietly There Album Cover Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel: Quietly There
ZOOT SIMS
4.43 | 3 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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MILES DAVIS My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert Album Cover My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert
MILES DAVIS
4.00 | 6 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Jazz Impressions of New York Album Cover Jazz Impressions of New York
DAVE BRUBECK
4.02 | 4 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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The Complete Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Recordings
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The Quintessence 1953-1962
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cool jazz Music Reviews

CHICO HAMILTON The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet

Live album · 1960 · Cool Jazz
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js
The early part of the Chico Hamilton discography is a bit of a confusing mess to descramble with many tracks showing up on more than one album and many albums bearing the same title such as “The Chico Hamilton Quintet” or “The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet” etc. To clarify the situation, this “The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet” album that is being reviewed here was part of a live concert recorded at Strollers back in 1955, but not released until 1960, probably to cash in on the rising popularity of the band. This concert shows Hamilton’s creative group in fine form as they combine a wide array of styles including west coast bebop, hard bop, classical chamber music and rhythms from Africa and South America. All of this music was presented with that distinctly 50s west coast style that came to be called ‘cool’. You really couldn’t call Chico’s quintet avant-garde, but they were one of the more experimental and unorthodox bands of the time, definitely beating out a path all their own.

The album opens with two well known standards, “Caravan” and “Tea for Two”, which the band gives signature creative arrangements. The version of “Caravan” shows the cross-relationship between west coast jazz and the lounge exotica scene of the time, no surprise as many exotica records were performed by west coast jazz musicians. Two up tempo numbers follow with “Fast Flute” living up to its name as Buddy Collete fires off a frantic flute solo while backed by Hamilton’s driving rhythm, which sounds rooted in the music of Africa or Brazil. On track six, “A Mood”, the band shows their specialty, a cleverly arranged melody with shifting time signatures and a surprise around every corner. Something for ‘deep listening’ that still has the snap of a catchy pop tune. “I’ll be Loving You” is their ballad offering and features Buddy’s flute playing melodic exchanges with Fred’s cello. Another up-tempo bop number closes out the set in energetic fashion and features a very musical drum solo from Hamilton, always a master of that peculiarly west coast ‘playing with brushes’ sound.

“The Original Chico Hamilton Quintet” is a good example of a young jazz group all excited about the new possibilities that are being offered to them as they learn from each other. If there is a drawback to this album, the sound quality of the recording is okay, but a little murky, especially the guitar. I’m going to guess that maybe this was not meant to be a released album until the record label saw how popular the band had become.

CHICO HAMILTON Chico Hamilton Quintet Featuring Buddy Collette (aka Spectacular!)

Live album · 1955 · Cool Jazz
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js
“Chico Hamilton Quintet Featuring Buddy Collette” is not the first Chico Hamilton album, but it’s the first to present his popular quintet and its west coast flavored ‘chamber jazz’ sound. In current times, the term chamber jazz has become vague and often misapplied to jazz that has more in common with art pop and new age music, but in the 1950s, chamber jazz actually meant jazz with a pronounced element of classical chamber music. In other words classical music written for small ensembles. This album is a sort of slap together type affair with supposedly half the tracks coming from one studio session, and the other half from a live date, but judging by the different production values of some of the tracks, I would guess there may be even more sources for these tunes. For the most part, the studio tracks reveal intricately arranged chamber works, while the live ones get into a mellow west coast hard bop swing.

“A Nice Day” opens up the album, and it sets the mood for the Hamilton chamber jazz sound as carefully arranged cello and clarinet lines sometimes give way to concise solos, but mostly its about the creative arrangements. This sound is featured on approximately four tracks, while most of the rest feature Hamilton and crew playing relaxed hard bop jams live at a club with very sparse arrangements and plenty of solo space for guitar and saxophone. If cellist Fred Katz appears on the live cuts, then he must be mixed very much in the background. Studio track, “Blue Sands” is a very interesting ‘exotic’ number that hints at Hamilton’s world fusion direction in the 60s, but the recording is very murky and sounds like it was recorded somewhere different from all the other tracks. Amongst the live tunes, “Free Form”, is an odd experiment, not really free jazz as such, but more like an improvised modern classical piece, it sort of works, but mostly seems almost out of place with the mellow west coast bop numbers.

“Chico Hamilton Quintet Featuring Buddy Collette” isn’t a bad album, and fans of Chico and 50s creative west coast jazz in general, may want to get this, but for somebody looking for their first Chico Hamilton record, this is not the one to get.

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
aglasshouse
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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aglasshouse
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.

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