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Cool Jazz

II. Cultural Implications of Cool Jazz

A. Revitalization of Jazz


Cool Jazz brought jazz music back to the mainstream; that is, it re-popularized jazz.

  1. Swing Era big band jazz had been popular.
  2. Because of its intensity and complexity, Bebop did not have the mass appeal of the Big Band Era.
  3. Dave Brubeck and other Cool Jazz artists brought jazz to college campuses in the 1950s, finding a new audience for jazz (before this, jazz was mostly played in nightclubs and dance halls).

B. East Coast vs. West Coast


Bebop was associated with the East Coast (e.g., New York) while Cool Jazz was associated with the West Coast (e.g., California).

  1. The California image of casual, laid back suburbia was the perfect backdrop and breeding ground for Cool Jazz.
  2. Cool Jazz represented the increasing importance of California to American society and culture. 

C. Postwar Culture


Post World War II, American attitudes were shifting, due to both a newfound affluence in the 1950s and a growing uncertainty of the future. Cool Jazz reflected (and contributed to) a subdued emotion and quiet intellectual control that had become valued in American society.

  1. "Keeping cool" was an expression of emotional self-control in times of crisis that was found in American street slang as well as in the language of army test pilots.
  2. Fictional heroes like James Bond and Mike Hammer remained cool and calm while the world exploded around them.
  3. America's top choice of entertainment had "cooled down" from the nightclubs, dance halls, amusement parks and vaudeville of prior generations to television featuring shows about simple suburban life (e.g., Leave It To Beaver).
  4. Due to the newly developed weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, cool thinking was required at this crucial point in history. 

the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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