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Cool Jazz


1. All styles of jazz from Dixieland to contemporary are still being performed and recorded today. All style dates given are approximations of when each respective style came to the forefront of jazz and experienced its most concentrated development; of course, styles and dates overlap.

2. Miles Davis was an innovator in many styles of jazz, not just cool; he played bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and fusion (more on this later).

I. California's Cool Jazz

jazz images 1

Chet Baker

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Dave Brubeck

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Gerry Mulligan

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Miles Davis

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A. The Music


Cool Jazz was at the forefront of jazz and went through its most concentrated growth and development from 1949 – 1955.1 

B. Bebop vs. Cool


  1. Whereas Bebop was “hot” (i.e., loud, exciting, and loose), Cool Jazz was “cool” (i.e., soft, more reserved, and controlled).
  2. Unlike Bebop, much of Cool Jazz was arranged (written) ahead of time. In Bebop the emphasis was on the improvised solos; in Cool Jazz both the arrangement and the improvised solos were important.
  3. Cool Jazz was a blending of jazz and classical music. Whereas Bebop bands were usually a quartet or quintet and were comprised of saxophone and/or trumpet and rhythm section, Cool Jazz groups had a wider variety of size and instrumentation.
    1. they ranged in size from trios to nonets (nine-piece band)
    2. "classical" instruments such as flute, French horn, tuba, and vibraphone (vibes) were often found in Cool Jazz groups 

C. Miles Davis


One of the first and most important Cool Jazz artists was trumpeter Miles Davis2; the first important Cool Jazz album was his Birth of the Cool

D. Important Figures


Other important Cool Jazz artists include:

  1. pianist Dave Brubeck
  2. trumpeter Chet Baker
  3. baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan
  4. the Modern Jazz Quartet

E. Listening Examples


Listen to examples of Cool Jazz:

  1. The Miles Davis Nonet’s "Boplicity" and the Gerry Mulligan Quartet’s "Bernie’s Tune" on The Instrumental History of Jazz
  2. The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s "Take Five" (click below) 

Audio Snippets

speakerspacer Take Five - The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Video Clips

videospacer Chet Baker - Live in 1964
videospacer Chet Baker - Time After Time
videospacer Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five
videospacer Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
videospacer Miles Davis - Boplicity
videospacer Miles Davis - How Miles Recorded Kind of Blue
videospacer Miles Davis - So What
videospacer Modern Jazz Quartet - Django
videospacer Modern Jazz Quartet - The Golden Striker
the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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