Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Listen Or Die? #12 - Birth Of The Cool...

Listen Or Die? Our weekly examination of the albums listed in the book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Must you hear them? We'll be the judge of that...

Birth Of The Cool
by Miles Davis (1957)
Running Time: 37:56
Reviewed by Matt Bond

1. Move
2. Jeru
3. Moon Dreams
4. Venus De Milo
5. Budo
6. Deception
7. God Child
8. Boplicity
9. Rocker
10. Israel
11. Rouge
12. Darn That Dream

One would assume it's safe to say everyone knows Miles Davis is cool. The questions is, do most people know he's cool because of his game changing improvisational jazz? A more likely reason for the general belief he is 'cooler than cool' would be the line, "if peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis." Adam Sandler certainly had it going on for awhile there. Let's see if Miles Davis had it 'going on' too. This isn't our first 50s jazz experience. Let's hope it's better than the last. 

Birth Of The Cool scores points for creating that dank, dimly lit, smokey hole-in-the-wall establishment jazz atmosphere. Take 'Venus De Milo' for instance. You feel like you've just stumbled upon a bar in New York that you're really not cool enough to be in. A trumpet player stands on stage, a lone spotlight keeping the focus solely on him until the saxophonist enters with a snappy improvised solo. The double bass player is at the back, probably wearing a beret and smoking a cigarette without the use of his hands. Drunkards, down on life, sit at the bar downing shots of whiskey. The bartenders look like fancy waiters. Audience members not coked out of their brains direct a look at you that screams, "join our depressing collective of lost souls." To me, that's good jazz and that's the feel of 'Venus De Milo.'  

Don't despair, it's not as gloomy as the picture I poorly attempted to paint with words. For 'Boplicity' (which sounds like a terrible movie title), 'Rocker' and 'Israel' we're treated to fairly breezy orchestrated jazz arrangements. They retain Davis' penchant for the improvisational, but waiver dangerously close to falling into the 'haven't I already heard this?' trap. A bit too samey-samey for my liking. Thankfully 'Rouge' picks things up nicely, leading into the only song featuring vocals, 'Darn That Dream.' Those drunkards at the bar have burst into tears and begun lamenting their gal walking out on their sorry behinds. You've started to back away slowly to the exit... it's time to go. 

At the very least, Birth Of The Cool confirms Miles Davis is one cool cat. Nope, not jazz savvy enough to pull of calling someone a cool cat. Maybe one day? Maybe not. Let's say this one's worth a LISTEN

The tally...

DIE - 6

We have a tie! With Billie Holiday, Little Richard and Ray Charles still to come in the 50s, will the listen's finally pull into the lead? Stay tuned... 

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