Cool Jazz

Brubeck QtetOne of least clearly defined jazz styles, cool jazz is really a combination of a number of different approaches to jazz that all emanate from bebop. The cool style was not so much a response to bebop, but a logical extension of it started by musicians who were involved in the bop movement. Bop performance was centered on improvisation and so was cool, but one of the most striking differences was the manner in which solos were framed within an arrangement that often featured changes in texture.

Cool Jazz - Episode 1

The musicians themselves did not differentiate as much as the critics and record company executives, who in their haste to sell records were constantly coming up with new names for styles within the jazz genre. There are no “hard and fast” rules about cool jazz---mostly a combination of approaches that differed from bebop. The alto saxophonist Lee Konitz was characterized as a cool style player, (though he lived in New York) but his style of playing was smoother than that of Charlie Parker---probably a result of studying with Lennie Tristano.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
BoplicityMiles DavisBirth of the Cool1949
Lester Leaps InCount Basie with Lester Young1939
Clap Hands Here Comes CharlieCount Basie with Lester Young1939
BudoMiles DavisBirth of the Cool1949
IsraelMiles DavisBirth of the Cool1949
Donna LeeCharlie Parker1947
Donna LeeLee Konitz1947

Cool Jazz - Episode 2

The emergence of the west coast cool style began to emerge at roughly the same time as the Royal Roost (Birth of the Cool) sessions in New York between 1948 and 1949. Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck not only had a strong background in jazz, but was also well versed in European music (so was pianist John Lewis). He started his Octet in late 1946 or early 1947 and made one recording with the group in 1950. Brubeck looked to utilize European compositional devices with the Octet which was rather novel for the time. Claude Thornhill and Boyd Raeburn orchestras also played an integral role in this “Europeanization” of jazz in the mid to late 1940’s. Some lesser known groups are also featured on this podcast including the Dave Pell Octet and the Serge Chaloff Octet.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
BudoMiles DavisBirth of the Cool1949
Fugue on a Bop ThemeDave BrubeckDave Brubeck Octet1950
The Way You Look TonightDave BrubeckDave Brubeck Octet1950
AnthropologyClaude Thornhill1947
PatSerge Chaloff Septet1949
ChickasawSerge Chaloff Octet1949
Mountain GreeneryDave Pell Octet1954

Cool Jazz - Episode 3

One of the most famous of the west coast cool jazz groups was the Gerry Mulligan Quartet formed in 1952. It featured the quintessential cool jazz trumpet player/vocalist, Chet Baker. Baker became the poster boy for cool jazz in the early 1950’s. His playing was modeled after Miles Davis and his seemingly laid back melodic approach connected with audiences. The group did not have a pianist, which made for an interesting change in texture. Also featured on this podcast is the Dave Brubeck Quartet from the 1950’s featuring the light airy sound of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Brubeck’s series of albums, Jazz Goes to College, were immensely popular and helped bring him to international acclaim. Brubeck’s 1959 album Time Out is probably his most famous recording and features two instantly recognizable compositions, “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
Line for LyonsChet Baker and Gerry MulliganGerry Mulligan Quartet1952
FreewayChet Baker and Gerry MulliganGerry Mulligan Quartet1952
Love NestChet BakerChet Baker and the Russ Freeman Quartet1956
MotelChet BakerSteve Allen Tonight Show1954
PerdidoDave BrubeckJazz at Oberlin1953
Take FiveDave BrubeckTime Out1959
Blue Rondo a la TurkDave BrubeckTime Out1959

Cool Jazz - Episode 4

Alto saxophonist Art Pepper started his playing career in the early 1940’s playing in big bands led by Stan Kenton and Benny Carter and spent most of his career on the west coast. A bebopper at heart, Pepper’s playing has been referred to as west coast cool due to geography more than anything. A fiery player, he influenced many alto players in the 1950’s. The Modern Jazz Quartet was one of the most unique groups in jazz. Difficult to characterize, the leader, John Lewis, drew inspiration from many sources. He often looked to European music as a model when considering form and texture. The members themselves came from the bop movement, but Lewis also had a hand in the Birth of the Cool sessions. The last musician to be included in this podcast is Satan Getz. (see the podcast series on Getz) He came up in the late swing era, played bebop, and also can be characterized as a quintessential cool player. He contradicts everything about categorizing an artist, but his beautiful sound and relaxed way of playing are instantly recognizable.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
Pepper ReturnsArt PepperThe Return of Art Pepper1956
DjangoModern Jazz QuartetDjango1956
Woody n' YouModern Jazz QuartetFontessa1956
La Ronde SuiteModern Jazz QuartetDjango1956
Stella by StarlightStan GetzStan Getz Plays1952
Lover Come BackStan GetzStan Getz Plays1952