Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool

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Birth of the Cool

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  • An incredible pressing of this Groundbreaking Jazz Classic, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • This vintage mono pressing will show you just how well-recorded these 1949-50 sessions were 
  • It’s the records they made from these tapes (more often from the dubs of them) that have given everybody the wrong idea about these wonderful sounding recordings
  • 5 stars: “So dubbed because these three sessions are where the sound known as cool jazz essentially formed, Birth of the Cool remains one of the defining, pivotal moments in jazz. This is where the elasticity of bop was married with skillful, big-band arrangements and a relaxed, subdued mood that made it all seem easy, even at its most intricate.”

NOTE: This is not the quietest copy we’ve ever heard, so we’re keeping the price down. If you want to hear how amazing the album can sound and can put up with less than-ideal surfaces, this is the copy to get.

If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


We’ve been trying to find copies of this classic music from 1949-1950 that really delivered the audiophile goods, but it took us years to track down the right pressings from the right era with the right stampers. We went through Monos, Stereos, Originals, Reissues of every kind… basically everything we could get our hands on.

It sure wasn’t easy and it sure wasn’t cheap, but after about ten years of digging we’re pretty sure we’ve got The Birth of the Cool’s number. This copy is proof positive. We guarantee you have never heard a version of this music that sounds remotely as good as this very record.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes back in the day
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of this rather sizable group having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.

The Players

Alto Saxophone – Lee Konitz 
Baritone Saxophone – Gerry Mulligan 
Bass – Al McKibbon, Joe Shulman, Nelson Boyd
Drums – Kenny Clarke, Max Roach
French Horn – Junior Collins, Gunther Schuller, Sandy Siegelstein
Leader, Trumpet – Miles Davis 
Piano – Al Haig, John Lewis 
Trombone – J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding
Tuba – John Barber

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Far too many pressings that we’ve played over the years were small and lifeless — about what you’d expect from recordings old enough to qualify for social security.

The good pressings like this one are an entirely different beast — clean, clear, big, rich, full-bodied and transparent. Sure, the sound is a touch old-school, but it is CORRECT for that time, which means it is properly mastered from a good tape.

What We’re Listening For on Birth of the Cool

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Move
Jeru
Moon Dreams
Venus de Milo
Budo
Deception

Side Two

Godchild
Boplicity
Rocker
Israel
Rouge

AMG Review

So dubbed because these three sessions — two from early 1949, one from March 1950 — are where the sound known as cool jazz essentially formed, Birth of the Cool remains one of the defining, pivotal moments in jazz. This is where the elasticity of bop was married with skillful, big-band arrangements and a relaxed, subdued mood that made it all seem easy, even at its most intricate. After all, there’s a reason why this music was called cool; it has a hip, detached elegance, never getting too hot, even as the rhythms skip and jump. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about these sessions — arranged by Gil Evans and featuring such heavy-hitters as Kai Winding, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, and Max Roach — is that they sound intimate, as the nonet never pushes too hard, never sounds like the work of nine musicians. Furthermore, the group keeps things short and concise (probably the result of the running time of singles, but the results are the same), which keeps the focus on the tones and tunes. The virtuosity led to relaxing, stylish mood music as the end result — the very thing that came to define West Coast or “cool” jazz — but this music is so inventive, it remains alluring even after its influence has been thoroughly absorbed into the mainstream.