The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

09 August

Chill Out On Some Greats From The Golden Age Of Modern Jazz

Though as a schoolboy and then a university student in the 1950s my first love was for the rawness and energy of rock & roll I found that sometimes it felt important to lay back with music that was a little more reflective and experimental yet which still possessed a rhythmic beat – and that was when I got into cool jazz….

The heat and urgency of bebop began to relax with the development of Cool Jazz. Starting in the late 1940s and early ’50s, musicians began to develop a less frantic, smoother approach toward improvising modeled after the light, dry playing of swing-era tenorist Lester Young. The result was a laid-back and even-keeled sound bearing a facade of emotionally detached “coolness.”

Even to this gangly South London teenager in the 1950s appearing to be cool and laid back seemed the very mark of a man especially in the presence of those mysterious feminine figures suddenly manifesting themselves on my radar – and the idea of being Jimmy Giuffre gliding in and out of the music with his sax was just the essence of cool (yes the clip is a little scratchy but just watch the lean way he moves….and sounds…)


But the father figure of cool jazz was Miles Davis

Trumpeter Miles Davis, one of the first bebop players to “cool it,” emerged as the greatest innovator of the genre. His Birth Of The Cool nonet recordings of 1949-’50 are the epitome of Cool Jazz lyricism and understatement.

In 1959 Davis cut what is often called one of the greatest jazz albums of all time – Kind of Blue – with colleagues who were giants in their own right….John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans……sublime….

Bill Evans, who played on that seminal Davis album, is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential  pianists of modern times. Unfortunately drug addiction led to an untimely death but, like many creative artists, once his hands touched the keys all weaknesses and burdens were thrown aside and pure, unadulterated genius reigned…

Dave Brubeck, on the other hand, was a brilliant jazz revolutionary whose experiments in unusual time signatures produced what is probably still the most famous modern jazz number of all time – and he continued to play well into this 21st century….

I first came across Chico Hamilton in the gritty 1957 film noir “Sweet Smell of Success” where his band provided background to that taut urban tale of media corruption and nightlife hustling. but this piece is far from that world, a beautiful piece of chamber jazz drawing an elegant picture of a…..nice day……

…and next….the MJQ….no need to say any more, the coolest of the cool……

Not forgetting those cool vocalists – and none cooler than Anita O’Day. If Brubeck’s Take Five is the insrumental number most people associate with modern jazz then Anita’s gig at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, captured forever on film in “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” is the essence of style – the hat, the dress, the heels, those gloves and the voice……jazz nirvana……

Keith J Roberts (Mr Forever Cool) recommends these albums as the core of any cool jazz collection – it’s a personal choice (like my clips) but a good start. If you fancy getting any of these then do me a little favour and order them from the Amazon links on the sidebar… will help augment my pension….lol….

In the meantime – stay cool…..


3 Responses to “Chill Out On Some Greats From The Golden Age Of Modern Jazz”

  1. Mobties says:

    Thanks for the memories, especially the “Train and the River” with Jim Hall, Guiffre and Eddie Gomez? Also Anita O’Day.

  2. Jan Stevens says:

    Thanks for the wonderful videos. Pleas note Bill Evans did NOT die from “drug and alcohol” addiction. He did not DRINK at all. Never. You put two things together than don’t go together here. There is a difference. Thanks.

  3. david says:

    Thanks for that correction – have amended the post. Glad you liked the clips…

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