NPR logo Present at 'The Birth of the Cool'

Present at 'The Birth of the Cool'

In 1998, a remastered version of the original Miles Davis Nonet works was reissued on the Blue Note label. hide caption

toggle caption

The music eventually collected on The Birth of the Cool grew out of informal jam sessions at Gil Evans' apartment on 52nd Street in the late 1940s. Some of the best young beboppers in town showed up, including piano player John Lewis, drummer Max Roach, alto player Lee Konitz, and the late baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.

In a 1980 interview at his home in Darien, Conn., Mulligan said the musicians used to have long theoretical conversations about how to incorporate the new small-combo bebop sound — pioneered by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk — into an orchestral setting.

"Through these conversations, and the number of people, musicians that wandered in and out of Gil's place, it was really a great period for exchange of ideas, and the creative atmosphere was highly charged," Mulligan remembered.

The instrumentation that emerged came to be known as "The Birth of the Cool."

Mulligan conceded that the remote sound of "cool" jazz also grew from the musicians' use of heroin.

"A lot of the things wouldn't have been accomplished if it hadn't been for the addiction," he said. "In the end it was a very destructive force. But I think one of the things that it helped the musicians accomplish was... making our own microcosm of social connection."

Article continues after sponsorship

— Tom Vitale