Miles Davis

From Cool to Bop: The Anthology

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The late '40s were a very productive time for Miles Davis, who was still in Charlie Parker's employ when, in 1947, he started recording as a leader. The following year, Davis unveiled what came to be called The Birth of the Cool Band -- a highly influential nonet that boasted such cool jazz icons as Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz. The terms cool jazz and West Coast jazz have often been used interchangeably, but cool jazz (a softer, more subtle and understated version of bebop) actually started in New York with Davis and Stan Getz. Focusing on Davis' live performances of the late '40s, this excellent two-CD set finds the trumpeter appearing in both cool and non-cool settings. Disc One is devoted to September 1948 performances at the Royal Roost in Manhattan's Times Square area, where Davis leads his Birth of the Cool nonet. On Disc Two, however, he co-leads a quintet with pianist Tadd Dameron at the International Festival of Jazz in Paris (May 1949). And the contrasts are fascinating -- subtlety and restraint generally prevail at the Royal Roost, whereas a harder, more aggressive approach characterizes the Davis/Dameron quintet's Paris performances (which feature James Moody on tenor sax). Cleopatra's Stardust label successfully shows us two different sides of the multi-faceted, chameleon-like Davis -- listeners hear the differences, but they also hear the parallels. Whether Davis surrounded himself with soft-toned or hard-swinging players, he was usually a trumpeter who valued economy; Davis chose his notes carefully and practiced restraint even when those around him were being forceful. From Cool to Bop: The Anthology falls short of essential, but it's still a fine double-CD that is highly recommended to those who have more than a casual interest in cool jazz and '40s bebop.

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