Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool: Dawn of Jazz

Posted: September 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

By Ethan

To those confused by the second part of that title: no, I know that we are not in the ‘dawn’ stage of the jazz genre, nor was the release of the record in a dawn of jazz. However, pretentious as it sounds, I feel this record I picked up a few months ago at Rough Trade West has been the mark of my beginning to take a serious interest in the genre.

The ’49 record, cited by Davis in his autobiography as a collector’s item, caught my eye in the store with its effortlessly slick cover work: a black and white still of Davis playing his trumpet, sporting Wayfarer shades- only black, white and red appear on the simple yet striking artwork. To truly seal this purchase as pivotal, it was paired with Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

Upon first listening to the vinyl press, I treated the piece as one of several, not stunningly brilliant relative to the standard set by the latter. Yet, knowing I was leaving the infinitely impressive and substantial Davis on the shelf, it was not long before I would give into the temptation of playing the record for a second time. As I had hoped and expected, I felt a very different and more real effect; the rich yet incredibly warm and sweet melodies of ‘Israel’, ‘Darn That Dream’ and ‘Deception’ (all from side 2) enticing me into listening to the album time and again.

Israel is a fitting answer to when Davis suggests that it was this album that brought success because of its personality and softness. Darn That Dream, the final track and only one to feature any vocals, capitalises on the baritone voice of Gerry Mullian by using traditional sounding lyrics to complete the rich ballade.

My favourite track, Deception, is the only one to be arranged by Davis himself alone, and features what is quite possibly the most beautiful melody. It is outstanding for, rather than being that track you remember for its catchy beat or portraying a particular image in the listener’s mind; it is special for being the epitome, the summary of the general warmth of the album as a whole. In fact like the Strokes album Is This It (pretty much the greatest music ever), my favourite track is, rather than Last Nite or New York City Cops, Alone Together. It does not feature the startlingly mind-blowing tune you’d expect from the best song from the best album ever, but it does remind the listener of what the music is about. As I mature and expand my musical tastes, I see more and more that it is those tracks that feature the most.

Ethan.

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