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Cool Jazz

Every yin has its yang, every north has its south. And so it was with the frenetic, hyper-energetic style of Bebop, which was followed by what we now call 'cool' jazz. The term started to be applied to a new school of jazz in the early 1950s, when Capitol Records released the album Classics in Jazz: Cool and Quiet. But many people associate the nascent cool movement by the uber-cool master of jazz, Miles Davis. He even named one of his albums 'The Birth of the Cool' and it’s an iconic album that stands as a milestone in the history of jazz to this day. He was quickly followed by musicians such as John Lewis’ Modern Jazz Quartet, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz, Chet Baker and George Shearing.

The musical style is more laid back, with more moderate tempos and a more lyrical, less angular approach to improvising a solo. Although Miles Davis and his associates were based in New York, there was a parallel and simultaneous exploration of the 'cool’ style by musicians based in California, and this became known as 'West Coast' jazz. 

This came about largely because Stan Kenton disbanded his Innovations Orchestra, leaving a group of LA-based players at a loose end. The drummer Shelley Manne and trumpeter Shorty Rogers, the baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan and the valve trombone player Bob Brookmeyer, along with saxophonist Art Pepper were key players.

The influence of cool jazz reached far and wide, arguably into the music of two albums released in 1959 — Dave Brubek’s 'Time Out' and Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue'. One interesting aspect of cool jazz is its heavier reliance on arranged scores, and this provided an early proving-ground for such legendary arrangers as Lennie Niehaus and Gil Evans.

Key Artists

Miles Davis

Shorty Rogers

Sten Getz

Gerry Mulligan

Bob Brookmeyer

John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet)

Chet Baker

Shelley Manne

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