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Music: Miles Davis Made His First Mark “Birth of the Cool”

“Birth of the Cool” was where Miles Davis made his first mark in jazz. Possibly the most influential jazz artist of all-time, Miles was on the forefront of the music for several decades, essentially steering its path during that time, and with the landmark recordings that make up this CD, Miles Davis (as well as Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans, who deserve just as much credit) gives birth to “cool” jazz. Though it has had a few detractors who’ve dismissed it as ‘boring’ and ‘bland,’ a majority of listeners are really taken by what Davis & Co. have accomplished here. That nonet only recorded 12 pieces in the studio, and the whole dozen have been collected in this remarkable compilation.


Davis’s lyrical, anti-virtuoso trumpet finds a beautiful soulmate in Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax (who also had a huge hand in writing much of the material as well). The recordings are most famous for the arrangements Evans, Mulligan, and a few others have given the music; elegant and sophisticated, it charts new territory in “big band” music, something that would ultimately lead to the quasi-orchestral music produced by Davis and Evans in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

A few years ago, it was thought that the definitive version of “Birth of the Cool” was released on a CD titled “The Complete Birth of the Cool,” a remastered disc that also contained live radio performances of the music. However, recently, famed recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder discovered the original master tapes that were used for the original 78’s (all 12 tracks were initially released as 78’s; they weren’t compiled on to an album until several years later). As it turned out, every Lp and CD of the album since then were made from Lp masters that were essentially safety copies.

Capitol was reluctant to remaster this material after just doing so, but supposedly Van Gelder convinced them to do so due to the quality of the masters. Now remastered and reissued under Blue Note’s RVG Series, this latest edition is simply incredible to listen to. Far better than older editions of this CD, it even outstrips the “Complete Birth of Cool” disc.

If you haven’t bought this music yet, this new RVG edition is definitely the one to get on the basis of sound. “The Complete” does have those radio performances, but while they are of obvious interest to lifelong jazz enthusiasts, I wouldn’t call them essential.

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