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 refered to as west coast jazz. 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 top albums

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

MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue Album Cover Kind of Blue
MILES DAVIS
4.94 | 85 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)
4.90 | 10 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Time Out Album Cover Time Out
DAVE BRUBECK
4.68 | 45 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 in Berlin Album Cover Miles in Berlin
MILES DAVIS
4.93 | 3 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
4.89 | 3 ratings
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DAVE BRUBECK Jazz Impressions of Japan Album Cover Jazz Impressions of Japan
DAVE BRUBECK
4.89 | 3 ratings
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GERRY MULLIGAN The Age of Steam Album Cover The Age of Steam
GERRY MULLIGAN
4.95 | 2 ratings
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AHMAD JAMAL At The Pershing: But Not For Me Album Cover At The Pershing: But Not For Me
AHMAD JAMAL
4.95 | 2 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Miles Ahead (with Gil Evans) Album Cover Miles Ahead (with Gil Evans)
MILES DAVIS
4.42 | 7 ratings
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PAUL DESMOND Take Ten Album Cover Take Ten
PAUL DESMOND
5.00 | 1 ratings
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JIMMY RANEY A Album Cover A
JIMMY RANEY
5.00 | 1 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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cool jazz Music Reviews

DAVE BRUBECK Jazz Impressions of Eurasia

Album · 1958 · Cool Jazz
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dreadpirateroberts
Released the year before landmark ‘Time Out,’ this is one of more than a few Quartet LPs that have probably been overshadowed by such a monster album.

But ‘Jazz Impressions of Eurasia’ is worth finding. It’s a distinctive set of pieces – take for instance the meditative yet jittery ‘Calcutta Blues’ or the catchy ‘Nomad’ – that draws from the Quartet’s long tour of Europe and South Asia. The album shows another wonderful set of recordings where the group have woven the music of other cultures into their cool jazz.

It’s easy to hear Dave’s ear for classical music, especially in standout ‘Thank You’ or the almost stately opening to ‘Brandenburg Gate.’ Brubeck’s playing has always sounded strong, firm, even considered to me – but it’s still relaxing too, still engaging. Despite great performances from Desmond on alto and Morello on the drums, for me this album represents one of my favourite Brubeck performances.

If you only have a few Brubeck albums and find yourself looking for more, then this might be a good place to stop off (along with another of his great travel-themed albums – Jazz Impressions of Japan.)

BUD SHANK I Hear Music

Album · 1966 · Cool Jazz
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js
“I Hear Music” consists of recordings that mostly came from two different sessions led by Bud Shank, one session from the mid-50s and the other from a few years later. The Sunset label slapped these songs together in the mid-60s and released them with a contemporary pop looking album cover to try and capitalize on Shank’s then growing popularity that had risen due to him forsaking his 50s jazz roots and going in a more pop direction. This album may have been a bit misleading at the time of its release, but fortunately the music is very good. Although many of the songs on here show up on various Shank CD re-issues, due to its thrown together nature, this album will probably never show up on a CD.

The best songs on here come from the mid-50s session that has Shank working with fellow woodwinds player Bill Perkins plus a hard driving rhythm trio that often includes Hampton Hawes and either Mel Lewis or Shelly Manne. Perkins and Shank’s ability to play together and intertwine is sublime, plus the all around playing on these sessions is just hotter. The later sessions lean more towards Shank’s classic west coast “cool” sound and feature some of his smoothest playing. Although these tunes are from different sessions, it seems care was taken to give the album a nice flow, particularly on side two where the 3rd stream influenced “Noctune for Flute” is followed by an equally sophisticated arrangement of “A Sinner Kissed an Angel”.

The nice thing about this vinyl is that its not particularly collectable and can be picked up for a low price from used record vendors. It can make a nice introduction for someone wanting to explore Shank’s 50s jazz before he went in a more commercial direction in the 60s. If one wanted just the music from one session or the other, then the CD “Pacific Jazz Records 93159” contains the mid 50s session, while the later cooler sessions can be found on Shank’s early quartet albums. One song on here, “You don’t Know what Love is”, is from “Bud Shank and Three Trombones”.

BILL EVANS (PIANO) "Live"

Live album · 1971 · Cool Jazz
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Amilisom
Although released in 1971, The Bill Evans Trio "Live" was originally recorded in 1964 at the Trident Club in Sausalito, California. It is the first Bill Evans album recorded with drummer Larry Bunker on the Verve label, having played with him before on the Milestone live albums "Time Remembered" and "At Shelly's Manne Hole" a year earlier in 1963. Bassist Chuck Israels at this point has been playing quite consistently since the tragic death of Scott LaFaro in '61 after the famous Village Vanguard recordings and will continue doing so until 1966. He imitates the free style of LaFaro well enough but approaches his solos with more lyrical lines than LaFaro's more frantic approach.

At this stage in Bill Evans' career I believe I hear a notable change in his playing style. Although Evans' improvisations have always contained rhythmic interest as well as influences from the Bebop era, here I hear a slight increase in complexity. There is a possibly that at this point he is beginning to be influenced by the rise of Post-Bop.

So I give this album 6.5/10, perhaps being generous. Overall there's not necessarily anything entirely wrong with this album other than the fact that the groove and feel slightly miss the mark. The trio plays some good tunes (specifically "How My Heart Sings") but rarely do I find myself returning to this by desire rather than out of necessity.

BILL EVANS (PIANO) Waltz for Debby

Live album · 1961 · Cool Jazz
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dreadpirateroberts
Bill Evans has more than a few fantastic live albums so if you’re looking for a place to begin, this is it. Released with perhaps his most complimentary sidemen, at a definite peak in his popularity, ‘Waltz for Debby’ is among the finest Cool Jazz releases.

Evans plays relaxed, as might be expected, but never dull. He is not known as a busy player and often seems content to let other musicians to utilize space that his notes move around, remaining gentle, emotive and effective (bassist Lafaro is an obvious example of this.) It’s a very together-sounding album, which is both a redundant thing to say about good music, and a thrilling thing to say about the trio – on their final album together, Evans, Motian and Lafaro sound whole.

While he never flies into lengthy solos here, Evans still draws out a set of standards and two compositions which later became standards, Davis’ Milestones and Evans’ own classic Waltz for Debby, which is a clear highlight. Equally pleasing is the almost ocean-like wash and shimmer of My Foolish Heart and the more upbeat moments toward the end of the album. (Evans’ fans will also enjoy familiar phrasings in Some Other Time.)

For me, more so than his more adventurous, more famous ‘Sunday at the Village Vanguard’ this is his best live outing. Not to be overlooked.

THE FOUR BROTHERS Together Again!

Album · 1957 · Cool Jazz
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js
Every now and then a record will really stand out, not necessarily because its such a radical departure, but only because its just that good. “The Four Brothers - Together Again!” is one of those records. There’s swing, and then there’s Swing, and this record has both in abundance, but done with an unparalleled subtle grace. The Four Brothers were four saxophonists (Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Herbie Steward, Serge Chaloff) who originally met in Woody Herman’s band back in the late 40s. The idea of so many low saxophones (3 tenors and 1 bari) was a bit unusual, so the brothers worked on trying to get the softest smoothest sound they could get. After many years apart, they reunited just this one time to record in 1957 with a piano/bass/drums backing trio. The slinky smooth style of Lester Young is a big influence, as well as the voicings and style of Gerry Mulligan, who had also played with the brothers in Hermman's band. Its that Mulligan sound that has this record reminding me of “Birth of the Cool”, cool meets swing taken to high art, but Four Brothers are not quite as abstract and artsy as the Miles/Gil Evans set. With the Four Brothers its all about that old school groove, but there is nothing corny or nostalgic going on here, the Brothers gently update that swing feel with the “cool” vibes of the 50s scene.

Players this in tune and in sync are rare, an obvious reference would be Woody Herman or Ellington’s band, or possibly even Glen Miller. Although Miller is sometimes derided by hardcore jazz fans, his saxophone section did achieve a smooth sound that even impressed the Duke himself, and sometimes the Brothers will recall the effortless sound that Miller perfected. Every song on here is a gem, but some highlights include the Gerry Mulligan penned “Four and One More” and Jimmy Giuffre’s “The Four Brothers”, the song which initially introduced their unique sound in the Herman band. Another personal favorite is “A Quick One”, a thrown together jam with an ultra catchy odd-metered opening riff. One more plus that adds to this album's unique appeal is that there are no worn out standards on here. In fact, many of the tunes on here were written for this session and arranged expressly for what these guys do best, classic 40s swing reinterpreted with a bit of ironic 50s cool and played by four cats who move as one.

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
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'Out to Lunch!' Avant-Garde Jazz
ERIC DOLPHY
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