Mid-Century Jazz: Listen to the Cool - Page 5

Uprising at the dawn of mid-century modern—California's 'cool school' of West Coast jazz

Discover more Cool Jazz essentials and some fine listening on Keith Roberts' online radio station Forever Cool

The classic Cool Jazz artists are well represented on compact disc, and the artists and titles listed below are a guide to the start or the bolstering of a diverse and representative collection.


1. Chet Baker: Deep in a Dream/the Ultimate Collection (Pacific Jazz) This disc, mostly ballads from the '50s, is as precious for fans enamored of Baker's emotive, almost feminine delivery of vocals as for those who favor his diaphanous but imaginative approach to trumpet.


2. Dave Brubeck: Time Out (Columbia/Sony) The modernist cover art, borrowed from surrealist Joan Mirá, is a clue to the experimental, felicitous, and erudite approach of pianist and composer Brubeck and his 'classic' quartet on this immensely popular album.


3. Gerry Mulligan: Original Quartet w/Chet Baker (Pacific Jazz) Mulligan worked with like-minded Chet Baker but without piano, making Mulligan's subtle, dusky voicings of the rarely heard baritone sax and Baker's sweet and airy trumpet tone irresistible.


4. Lee Konitz: Inside Hi-Fi (Koch Jazz) Like Art Pepper, Konitz blew a cool and unique alto. Having earlier helped Miles 'birth' the genre, Konitz here leads a small ensemble through an artful approach to several standards, sometimes switching to tenor.


5. Art Pepper: Modern Art/Complete Aladdin Recordings, vol. 2 (Blue Note) That he used the same horn as Charlie Parker (alto sax) qualifies Art Pepper as a fascinating paradigm of the difference between Cool players, of which he was one of L.A.'s best, and East Coast-based purveyors of Bop.


6. Stan Getz: Award Winner (Verve) In the decade before he managed to place the jazz saxophone and Brazilian bossa nova on the pop charts, Getz evolved his soft, supple sound beyond the influence of Prez and shared the sessions compiled here with some of L.A.'s best sidemen.


7. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (Columbia/Sony) Nearly a decade after his seminal 'Birth of the Cool' sides, Miles applied his cool approach to a newer, more modal kind of jazz, partnered by an eclectic group of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, and others.


8. Cal Tjader: Greatest Hits (Fantasy) A decade after Dizzy Gillespie launched Latin Jazz as a new and exotic way to go Bop, vibraphonist Tjader cooled the import down for the West Coast, while maintaining the vitality of percussion and of interchanges with Stan Getz and guitarist Eddie Duran.


9. Paul Desmond: Greatest Hits (RCA) There's no 'Take Five,' his classic hit with the Brubeck Quartet, but there are several of the relaxed and lyrical saxophonist's re-imaginings of older pop songs.


10. Barney Kessel: Poll Winners (Contemporary/OJC) In demand as a studio musician in L.A., guitarist Kessel also joined bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne in topping magazine jazz polls in 1956 and in this easygoing but artful recording the following year.


11. Vince Guaraldi: Greatest Hits (Fantasy) The 'hits' here of course include 'Cast Your Fate to the Wind' and 'Linus and Lucy,' which found their way into popular culture, but also show evidence of pianist Guaraldi's (and West Coast Jazz's) flirtation with Brazilian music.