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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

Birth of the Cool




  1. Milestones
  2. Half Nelson
  3. Jeru
  4. Budo
  5. Boplicity
  6. Moon Dreams
  7. Conception
  8. My Old Flame
  9. Tune Up
  10. ‘Round Midnight
  11. Old Devil Mood
  12. Blue ‘N’ Boogie
  13. Walkin’
  14. But Not for Me
  15. The Man I Love

This is the second album of Miles early work that has reached me for review this month and two of the tracks are the same as the one from NAXOS, I can only assume that once copyright expires they are up for grabs by anyone who wants to use them.

The first two tracks have Charlie Parker on tenor a comparatively rare occurrence and whilst they are both short tracks, they are both remarkable for something recorded in 1947. John Lewis is on piano and the ever-dependable Max Roach on drums.

The following two tracks are from the acknowledged ‘Birth of the Cool’ session, which benefited greatly from the talents of Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz and Al Haig.

The next two tracks had similar instrumentation but some changes in personnel. These tracks changed everyone’s conception of jazz played by a medium sized band, where the arrangers and not the soloists are the most important aspect.

Conception is an outstanding bebop set with Miles sharing the front line with Jackie McLean and Sonny Rollins, the rhythm section is Walter Bishop, Charles Mingus and Art Blakey.

My Old Flame was recorded in 1951, this is a quintet track with Sonny Rollins sharing the front line, Miles plays extremely well and creates several very relaxed musical choruses, before passing on the solo honours to Sonny Rollins, who solos with equal inventiveness and conviction.

Tune Up is a Miles Davis composition that he frequently used on public appearances from the date of this rendition in 1953. John Lewis, Percy Heath and Max Roach are in support. Miles to me was at his best at this time, he had a great flow of ideas and seemed relaxed and confident. ‘Round Midnight’ was recorded the same year, this time with Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker on tenor. Apparently this was not an altogether comfortable session for Miles, as Parker wanted to lead the band as well! He had of course previously employed Miles as a sideman.

Old Devil Moon has Horace Silver on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Art Blakey on drums. I had not heard this track before and it caught Miles on top form with a superb rhythm section. Blue ‘N’ Boogie includes one of the unsung heroes of bebop Lucky Thompson. Lucky died recently although he had not been active musically for some years, so it was nice to be reminded of his great talent. J J Johnson another bebop pioneer is on trombone. Walkin’ that great blues composition came from the same session.

But Not for Me is the quintet again with Sonny Rollins, the last track The Man I Love has Milt Jackson on Vibes and Thelonius Monk on piano.

This is a very good album containing some of the works of Miles from 1947-1954, not only was the leader in great form at that time, but there are some great performances by the sidemen. Lucky Thomson was in terrific form on the two tracks which he is heard, he had a great individual sound and a phenomenal technique.
Don Mather

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