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Max Perkoff: Reviews & Media Kit

Rebirth of The Cool

Rebirth of 'The Cool'
Copia revisits the beginning of an era Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“The Cool” was born in 1949, or depending on which jazz historian you choose to believe, plus or minus several years.

Following nearly six decades of further gestation, the cool is slated to be re-born in Napa on Saturday, April 12 when local musician Graham Bruce presents an ensemble playing the arrangements made famous on Miles Davis groundbreaking “Birth of the Cool” recordings released in 1950.
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Bruce, then 4 years old, calls 1950 his “favorite year.” The son of a pianist, he attended Berklee School of Music in Boston in the ’60s and has played with countless musicians around the U.S. Starting in 1981, he assembled a “fake book” containing hundreds of jazz tunes that weren’t widely available at the time.

Bruce discovered Davis’ “Birth of the Cool” in 1965. It was the start of what he terms, “a deep love affair.”
Last year, he assembled a nine-piece group to play the music from the Miles Davis recording, remaining as true as possible to the original recordings as well as the classic improvised solos.

The members of the 2008 “Cool Rebirth” include Bruce, trumpet and arranger; Scott Petersen, alto sax and flute; Kent Cohea, baritone sax and flute; Glen Swartz, French horn; Max Perkoff, trombone; Alan Parks, tuba; Lee Bloom, piano; Chuck Bennett, bass; and Bill Moody, drums.
The original recording of the nonet included, in various combinations, Miles Davis, trumpet; trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding; Lee Konitz, alto sax; Junior Collins, Gunther Schuller and Sandy Siegelstein, French horn; Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; John Barber, tuba; Al Haig and John Lewis, piano; Joe Shulman, Nelson Boyd and Al McKibbon, bass; Max Roach and Kenny Clarke, drums. Gil Evans and Mulligan were the arrangers.

Mulligan released his own follow-up, “Rebirth of the Cool,” in 1992 shortly after Miles Davis’ death.

“Gerry wrote the easiest arrangements,” Miles Davis once said, “just a good sound. They were the only things that came off happy and good and quick. Gerry told me once that he was never able to get that same sound again.”

In 1949, Davis had a contract with Capitol to record 12 sides for 78 rpm singles, and he organized the nine-piece group to record three sessions in January and April 1949 and March 1950. Davis, Konitz, Mulligan and Barber were the only musicians who played on all three sessions, though the instrumental lineup was constant. In 1953 eight of the tunes, originally released as 78s, were released on a 10-inch vinyl album in Capitol’s “Classics in Jazz” series. Finally, in 1957 a 12-inch vinyl LP titled “Birth of the Cool” added the remaining instrumental pieces. One vocal, “Darn That Dream,” featuring one-time Dizzy Gillespie singer Kenny Hagood was included on a 1971 release. That was done by long-time Mulligan sidekick Mel Tormè on the 1992 remake.

According to Bruce, the music is considered seminal because it launched a reaction to the prominent bebop form in modern jazz. Though the break can be exaggerated, it inspired a whole school of jazz musicians, particularly in California, usually referred to as the “cool jazz” cool school.”

Drummer Bill Moody will don another artistic hat that evening. He recently penned his sixth mystery novel, “Shades of Blue.” The whodunit is woven around the original “Birth of the Cool” band. Moody’s fifth jazz mystery, “Looking For Chet Baker,” has been widely read among jazz fans. Moody teaches creative writing at Sonoma State University.

“The connection between playing jazz and writing crime fiction is a strong one for me,” said Moody. “A jazz musician begins with the framework or the song — the chords, the structure, the form — but during a solo, he doesn’t know what he’s going to play or how until he reaches that part of the song. Writing crime fiction for me is a similar process.”

Copia will present the release of “Shades Of Blue,” and Moody will discuss the premise of his new novel and do a short reading between sets. Copies will be available for sale.

Coincidentally, Chet Baker also influenced Bruce. Back east, Bruce formed his own quintet, later moving to the San Francisco Bay area. While here, Baker and Bruce spent a week together before Baker moved on to his ill-fated journey to Europe.

“Chet’s sound and style had their affect on me even before I had met him, and later on, we shared a lot of ideas. When I got to share the stage with him, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I still love Chet, man.”

Bruce has recordings out as both a leader and at least four as sideman for the Artt (correct) Frank jazz ensemble.

During the evening’s second set, Bruce has gathered a collection of vintage photos of Miles Davis and other musicians that will be projected on Copia’s large screen. “These are some great pictures of Miles taken for Harper’s Bazaar around 1955,” he noted. “He looked so young and so good.”
Jay Goetting, Register Correspondent - Napa Valley Register (Apr 15, 2008)