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Album Reviews, Music

Album Review: Miles Davis – “The Complete Birth of the Cool”

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

 

 

As common lore dictates, in order to change the world, you simply must own a garage. And from the etch-a-sketch to the search engine now known as Google, it’s hard to argue with the “facts”. Yet, years before even Steve Jobs’ break through invention of the first preassembled computer, it was jazz icon, Miles Davis, who revolutionized an entire industry, all stemming from a humble basement abode in midtown Manhattan.

Acclaimed for far more than breaking the garage’s hot streak of hosting noteworthy inventors, Davis (May 1926 – September 1991) was arguably the most influential jazz musician in the modern era. Known for his insatiable appetite for all things new, this legendary trumpeter built a reputation as an instigator of change and constantly pushed the evolution of jazz music farther than any of his contemporaries could scarcely fathom.

In fact, Davis was such an expert at adaptation that it only took him two short years (1949-50), to invent an entirely new genre of jazz music. Appropriately titled, Birth of the Cool, the 12-song collection produced in the nondescript basement apartment of arranger Gil Evans, was the public’s first true taste of Davis’ “cool jazz” style.

Now, nearly 70 years since the formation of his groundbreaking collective responsible for reshaping the jazz landscape, the Birth of the Coolhas received an inviting makeover. Released June 7th via Blue Note/UMe, The Complete Birth of the Cool, contains not only the entirety of the group’s body of work, but the only surviving recording of the nonet captured at Royal Roost.

This collection marks the first time the monumental tracks have been remastered for vinyl as well as the first instance in which both the studio and live recordings are available together as a 2LP collection.

There is a levity and vivacious energy that surrounds each song, and the impact this style brought about to the industry as a whole has hardly aged in the many years following the original debut.

Mastered from the analog tapes of the original Birth of the Cool singles, the new variation contains a somewhat clearer sound, with the tuba and French horn holding a touch greater emphasis compared to the original tracks. And while listeners can delight in elements such as the Symphony Sid introduction to the live performance and the insightful new essay by Grammy-winning music historian, Ashley Kahn (included with the 2LP records), the true beauty of the re-release comes more from the appreciation of Davis’ contribution to modern jazz, than the post-bebop style he pioneered with these songs alone.

For while it’s easy to appreciate the drama of the orchestral elements and intertwining solos in songs such as “Move”, the sensitive sophistication and gentle style of “Moon Dreams”, and Davis’ uncanny ability to seamlessly weave trumpet melodies throughout the nonet’s multifaceted harmonies in tracks such as “Jeru” and “Rouge”, these are only stepping-stones relative to the entirety of Davis’ impactful and ever-changing relationship with jazz and popular music.

Because even as the Birth of the Cool, launched a new era in modern jazz, Davis, as per norm, was already tackling the next stage of growth and adaptation.

And whether it be the revolutionary incorporation of electric elements into his compositions or his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his influential cross-stylistic approach (a notable achievement having never written a rock song in his career), Davis, The Complete Birth of the Cool, and his career as a whole, continue to serve as inspiration for future innovators.

For as it turns out, you don’t need a garage to craft something magical. Rather, all it takes is the passion and persistence to push beyond even one’s own personal triumphs and make room for your next greatest hit.

Recommended Tracks: “Move”, “Moon Dreams”, and “Rouge”

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