Cool jazz  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"The Bohemianism of the 1950s is [...] hostile to civilization; it worships primitivism, instinct, energy, "blood." To the extent that it has intellectual interests at all, they run to mystical doctrines, irrationalist philosophies, and left-wing Reichianism. The only art the new Bohemians have any use for is jazz, mainly of the cool variety. Their predilection for bop language is a way of demonstrating solidarity with the primitive vitality and spontaneity they find in jazz and of expressing contempt for coherent, rational discourse which, being a product of the mind, is in their view a form of death."--"The Know-Nothing Bohemians" (1958) by Norman Podhoretz

Related e



Cool jazz is a jazz style that emerged in the late 1940s in New York City.


During 1946, after the Second World War, there was an influx of Californian (predominantly white) jazz musicians to New York. Once there, these musicians mixed with the mostly black bebop musicians, but by the "light" sound of Lester Young (Pres) in particular. The style that emerged became known as "cool jazz", which avoided the aggressive tempos and harmonic abstraction of bebop.

Cool jazz had several sources and tributaries. Arrangers Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan developed their initial ideas working for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, which featured such then-unheard-of instruments (for jazz) as french horn and tuba; the added forces permitted Evans and Mulligan to explore softer emotional and timbral shading than had been typical of swing-era big bands. Another variety of "cool jazz" was that of the pianist Lennie Tristano and his students, notably the saxophonists Lee Konitz (who spent some time in the Thornhill band) and Warne Marsh. Tristano's music is very different from what Evans and his colleagues were up to: its "coolness" was a matter of emotional temperature (Tristano required saxophonists to play with a "pure" tone and to concentrate on melodic development and interaction rather than overt emotionalism), but his emphasis on sometimes ferociously fast tempos and on pure improvisation rather than arrangement was closer to bebop.

The classic confluence of these various streams came with the 1949-1950 sessions now best known under their later title: Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool (1957). Despite Davis's top billing, this was in fact a collective project that drew together many players and arrangers/composers from the period: Davis, Evans, Mulligan, Konitz, John Lewis, Gunther Schuller, and Johnny Carisi. Issued only shortly after bebop had begun to establish itself, it offered an alternative aesthetic that was initially unpopular – the recordings originally sold poorly and the band did not last long – but slowly established itself as a jazz classic.

Despite its impact in the New York scene, cool jazz later became strongly identified with the West Coast jazz scene. Its influence stretches into such later developments as bossa nova, modal jazz (especially in the form of Davis's Kind of Blue [1959]), and even free jazz (in the form of Jimmy Giuffre's 1961-1962 trio.

Cool jazz artists

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cool jazz" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools