A history of Jazz Music

by Piero Scaruffi
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(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Jazz Music")

Cool Jazz

TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

The radical wing of bebop led to "cool jazz", a genre inaugurated in 1948 by Miles Davis with his nine-unit ensemble. Cool jazzists were even more uncompromising than bebop jazzists. They belonged to a younger generation and had been raised playing with the gurus of bebop (Miles Davis with Charlie Parker, the Modern Jazz Quartet with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz with Woody Herman, Gerry Mulligan and Art Pepper with Stan Kenton, Paul Desmond with Dave Brubeck, etc).

Cool jazz was a cerebral kind of music. It was largely independent of the traditional preoccupation with rhythm and melody. It focused on creative sounds in a "cool" (calm, pensive, meditative) fashion. Cool jazz represented the stage at which jazz music joined the general trend towards "soundsculpting" that was the quintessence of 20th century Western music.

Cool jazz represented a dramatic shift in the black psyche. The black musician metamorphosed from being an entertainer to being an explorer. This transition paralleled the social turmoil of the post-war era, when blacks began to enjoy enough (economic and political) freedom to emancipate themselves from the psychological slavery of depending on a white man to make decisions for them. These black musicians were playing for themselves, like they had not done since the birth of the blues. At the same time they were playing "about" themselves in the self-referential sense that the white avantgarde was playing "about" classical music while playing against it. They were, again, explorers of a musical genre, of its structure, of its rules, of its limits. Thus these black jazz musicians became more "white" than their predecessors had ever been.

Cool jazz was particularly popular among white musicians, probably because it downplayed the "African" roots of jazz. One of the founding fathers of cool jazz was a white musician: Lennie Tristano.


The most eccentric sound during the war was produced by the orchestra formed in 1937 by white pianist Claude Thornhill, that in 1942 boasted four vocalists, seven clarinets, two french horns and a tuba. Its arranger, Gil Evans, concocted dreamy and hypnotic textures, such as Portrait of a Guinea Farm (april 1941) and Snowfall (may 1941), that toyed with timbric and rhythmic mannerism. Their sophisticated chamber jazz even scored a couple of hits, A Sunday Kind Of Love (may 1947) and Love For Love (september 1947), but the band became even more cryptic after the addition of white alto saxophonist Lee Konitz (1947) and of arranger Gerry Mulligan, who penned Elevation (october 1948). Evans, Mulligan and Konitz were defining a white man's version of bebop, much more abstract than swinging. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


St Louis' trumpeter Miles Davis left Charlie Parker's band in 1948 and teamed up with white arrangers Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan, who simply continued what they had been doing with Claude Thornhill's orchestra: emphasize the timbric qualities of instruments. Their inter-racial Nonet (two whites on saxophones, Lee Konitz on alto and Gerry Mulligan on baritone, John Lewis on piano, Max Roach on drums, trombone, French Horn, tuba, bass) disposed of the tenor saxophone, rediscovered the tuba, indulged in the French horn, and removed all barrier between different instrumental sections, thus further upsetting the traditional balance of power within the jazz orchestra. Chalmers MacGregor's Moon Dreams (september 1948) and Cleo Henry's Boplicity (april 1949), with James "J.J." Johnson on trombone, were Gil Evans' most daring experiments to date. The nonet's album, Birth of the Cool (september 1948), originally released as 78 RPM singles and 45 RPM EPs between 1948 and 1950, and eventually released as a 12" LP in 1957, was a self-defining manifesto, and became one of the most influential jazz albums of all times. Featuring Gunther Schuller on French horn, the album included Mulligan's Venus De Milo (april 1949) and Jeru (january 1949), Lewis' Rouge (april 1949), and Davis' Deception (march 1950). Davis challenged the fundamental premises of bebop by creating music of haunting tonal qualities without relying on speed, an idea that he had already pioneered while playing with Charlie Parker. This approach dramatically altered the balance between the improviser and the arranger.
After Dig (october 1951), his pioneering album in the hard-bop style with a sextet featuring alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, pianist Walter Bishop, bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Art Blakey, that contained his compositions Dig and Denial, Davis retired from the scenes to kick his heroin addiction.
When he returned with Walkin' (april 1954), that contains a 13-minute tour de force interpretation of Richard Carpenter's Walkin' (1954) with James "J.J." Johnson on trombone, Lucky Thompson on tenor, Horace Silver on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums, Bag's Groove, titled after the eleven-minute version of Milton Jackson's Bag's Groove (december 1954) performed with a stellar line-up (Jackson on vibraphone, Thelonious Monk on piano, Clarke and Heath), and containing also three Sonny Rollins compositions performed with Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Horace Silver (piano), Clarke and Heath, and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants, that contained another Davis-Jackson-Monk collaboration (eleven-minute long) on Davis' own Swing Spring (december 1954), Davis had not only a sound that was unique but also a vision for the future of jazz. These works for Quintet redefined jazz as a sensual and haunting music.
Davis became a star in 1955 and formed a new Quintet to much fanfare, featuring tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The first album, Miles (november 1955), with Davis' The Theme, was still acerbic, but Cookin' (october 1956), that contained only four tracks among which notably Davis' Blues by Five and Tune-Up/ When Lights Are Low, Relaxin' (1956), with their eight-minute reworking of Frank Loesser's If I Were A Bell (october 1956), Workin' (may 1956), with Davis' Four and Coltrane's Trane's Blues, and Steamin' (may 1956), with their nine-minute reworking of Richard Rodgers' Surrey With the Fringe on Top, presented a perfectly integrated unit of imaginative solos and subtle interplay. (Ironically, these innovative recordings of 1956 were due to Davis' need to fulfil a contractual obligation, the easiest way being to cut lengthy spontaneous jams). Round About Midnight, titled after the Thelonious Monk original that had become Davis' signature tune, refined the method, particularly in Ray Henderson's Bye Bye Blackbird (june 1956): a psychological balance of moods, styles and techniques.
Adding altoist Cannonball Adderley turned the quintet into a Sextet, documented on Milestones (february 1958), with Davis' 13-minute Sid's Ahead and an eleven-minute version of Monk's Straight No Chaser. But the real "milestone" was Davis' modal-based improvisation on his brief Milestones.
In the meantime, Miles Ahead (may 1957) had marked the return of Gil Evans, who arranged a 19-piece Orchestra and provided Miles Ahead and Blues For Pablo. It was an altogether different format for Davis, one of short, catchy, baroque themes. Davis played flugelhorn on some tracks. During this period Davis also improvised the music for the soundtrack of Louis Malle's film L'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud (december 1957), one of his most experimental works and the archetype for all future film-noir scores. The collaboration with Evans continued on an album devoted to George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1958), and peaked with Sketches of Spain (march 1960): Davis and Gil Evans merged jazz musicians (Chambers, Cobb, Elvin Jones) and a classical orchestra, and focused on a 16-minute interpretation of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, translucent and sentimental. A 12-minute improvisation around Evans' Solea capped the album. The collaboration with Gil Evans ended with the inferior Quiet Nights (1962), released only in 1964.
In parallel Davis had been evolving independently his vision of jazz music for small ensembles, and had fully adopted the paradigm of "modal jazz" with Kind Of Blue (april 1959). By anchoring the compositions to just one key, chord and mode for several bars, Davis encouraged more freedom and creativity in the solos. Miles, Coltrane, Adderley, Chambers, Bill Evans on piano, Jimmy Cobb on drums improvised in the studio, without any rehearsal. Four lengthy jams, So What, Freddie Freeloader, All Blues and Flamenco Sketches (the most adventurous use of modal improvisation), explored their joint soul rather than constructing architectures of sound. The idea of modal jazz was immediately perceived as a revolutionary idea by the younger generation. Modal jazz was fundamentally a reaction to bebop's stereotypical pattern: a rapid succession of chords. Modal jazz created music using modes instead of chords as building blocks, thus greatly simplifying the harmony and emphasizing the melody.
Someday My Prince Will Come (march 1961) returned Davis to the format of the quintet. Two lengthy improvisations stood out, Teo, again with John Coltrane, and Pfrancing, Davis' Quintet was so celebrated by the press that the two live albums recorded with tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Wynton Kelly, Chambers and Cobb, In Person (1961) and At Carnegie Hall (1961), that mined his repertory and offered expanded versions of his warhorses, became best-sellers.
In a bold move, Davis ignored the lure of success and turned to a generation of very young players for his next project. Thus Seven Steps to Heaven (1963), whose best tracks were written by temporary pianist Victor Feldman, Seven Steps to Heaven and Joshua, debuted pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams (still a teenager). Tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter joined in 1964 during a European tour to form the most famous of all Davis quintets. This quintet proceeded to demolish harmonic conventions of jazz music, but in a subtler way than free-jazz was doing, remaining close to the cliches of hard bop while introducing greater tonal and rhythmic freedom. Best of all, each of the five members proved to be a skilled composer, crafting themes that were ideal platforms for their sound. E.S.P. (january 1965), still a transitional work, contained Shorter's E.S.P. and Iris, Carter's Mood and Eighty-One, Hancock's Little One, Davis' Agitation. Miles Smiles (october 1966), a more spontaneous effort, highlighted Shorter both as a player and as a composer (Orbits, Footprints, Dolores). Edgy and neurotic, but at the same time ebullient and even childish, it turned out to be a mere detour in the progression towards the low-key transcendental ambience of Sorcerer (may 1967), that contained Tony Williams' Pee Wee, Herbie Hancock's Sorcerer, Shorter's Prince of Darkness, Masqualero and Limbo. Both the compositions and the performances were moving towards a more sophisticated style, a mannerism of emotional restraint. Nefertiti (june 1967) wed the neurotic feeling of Miles Smiles and the surreal ambience of Sorcerer. The result was the jangling, angular, haunting music of Hancock's Madness, and of Shorter's Nefertiti and Fall. The muscular sound of Williams' Hand Jive was the last memory of their hard-bop roots.

Davis was dispensing with the original features of jazz (syncopation, melody) and focusing on the aspect that had become more and more central to the aesthetic of post-swing jazz: textural sound (ambience, mood). At the same time he was downplaying all the elements that could break down the piece into sections, so as the achieve the smooth and seamless quality of the stream of consciousness. Davis and Shorter were altering the relative roles of instruments within jazz: instead of melodic instruments such as trumpet and saxophone accounting for the music's dynamics over a simple, stable rhythmic foundation, Davis and Shorter were simplifying their melodic layer to the limit of pure ambience or mood while shifting most of the dynamics and complexity to Williams' "drumming".

Coherently, the format was evolving towards the long monolithic jam, as displayed on the four lengthy tracks of Miles in the Sky (may 1968): Davis' Stuff (17 minutes) and Country Son (14 minutes), Shorter's Paraphernalia (12 minutes), featuring guitarist George Benson, and Williams' Black Comedy. More importantly, the album began to replace piano and guitar with electric piano and electric guitar. The drum themselves were played in a manner that was more "rock" than "jazz". It was not clear at all that this evolution would end up in coining a new genre, jazz-rock. But that is what it did on Filles de Kilimanjaro (june 1968), appropriately subtitled "directions in music" and performed by the quintet of Davis, Shorter, Williams, Chick Corea on electric piano and British bassist Dave Holland. It was in fact more than just rock and jazz, because the playing introduced doses of funk and blues as well. And this time all five tracks were signed by Davis in person: Frelon Brun, Tout de Suite, Petits Machins, Filles de Kilimanjaro, Mademoiselle Mabry. Jazz-rock was, in fact, a consequence of modal jazz: modal jazz had blurred the border between the two genres (and classical music itself). In an age in which rock musicians were reaching out towards jazz, jazz had inadvertently reached out towards rock. Their wedding was just a matter of time.
In a Silent Way (february 1969) marked the new beginning. The new electric octet featured Davis, Shorter, Hancock, Corea, Holland, Williams, John McLaughlin on guitar and Joe Zawinul on organ. The LP was simply divided in two continuous sides: Shhh/Peaceful (18 minutes) and In a Silent Way/It's About That Time (20 minutes).
The next album was a double LP, Bitches Brew (august 1969), produced by Teo Macero and released in march 1970, that included six very long jams (up to 27 minutes) performed by a revolving cast of twelve musicians (Davis, Shorter, Corea, Zawinul, McLaughlin and Holland from the "old" guard, and, among the new faces, bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin and drummer Jack DeJohnette). It became an astronomical success and it made jazz-rock a world-wide commodity. It was also one of the first albums entirely built by the producer using studio machines: Macero and Davis glued together snippets of the actual performances in order to obtain the sound they wanted. The unreleased recordings by the band were far more straightforward than what appeared on the album. Davis was again the main composer: Bitches Brew (27 minutes), Spanish Key (17 minutes), and Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (14 minutes), influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Other notable themes were Zawinul's Pharaoh's Dance (20 minutes) and Shorter's Sanctuary (11 minutes). But the themes were hardly visible in the finished product. Davis had created a music of impressionistic soundscapes, that relied on the beat of rock music only to anchor them down, to avoid that they disintegrate in empty space.
Teo Macero repeated the trick on A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1970), that was, again, divided simply into the two sides of the LP: Right Off, that had McLaughlin and young drummer Billy Cobham play together (and except for a stellar solo by Davis, their interplay dominates the piece), and Yesternow. The influence of rock (especially Jimi Hendrix) and funk music was even more overt. Again, Macero pasted together (within the same piece) material coming from different sessions by different line-ups (and even material from previous albums). Jack DeJohnette, Bennie Maupin, Dave Holland, Sonny Sharrock also featured.
Davis kept elaborating on the new sound for a few years, but was losing all of his disciples, who went on to spread the word with their own bands: Shorter and Zawinul formed Weather Report, Corea formed Return to Forever, McLaughlin formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
In order to capitalize on Davis' pop-star status, several subsequent releases compiled material by different line-ups and from different sessions. Big Fun (january 1970) delivered at least two additions to the jazz-rock canon, both almost half an hour long: Shorter's Great Expectations (1969), performed by a mixed Indian and jazz ensemble (sitar, tabla, trumpet, guitar, piano, clarinet, saxophone, bass, drums and even Airto Moreira on berimbau) and Davis' Go Ahead John (1970), performed by a quintet (Davis, McLaughlin, Holland, DeJohnette, Steve Grossman on saxophone). Live Evil (february 1970) was split between live and studio material, best being the live jams (of december 1970) on Davis' Funky Tonk (23 minutes), What I Say (21 minutes) and Sivad (15 minutes), performed by the septet of Davis, McLaughlin, DeJohnette, Moreira, Michael Henderson on bass, Gary Bartz on saxophones and Keith Jarrett on electric keyboards. On The Corner (1972) was a more aggressive affair, very far from the studio sophistication of Bitches Brew, both the four-movement On The Corner (again an Indian, rock, funk and jazz pastiche) and the 23-minute Helen Butte/ Mr Freedom X. It marked the first use of a synthesizer on a Davis album, and the assimilation of the hip-hop rhythm.
The double-LP Get Up With It (october 1974) compiled even more heterogeneous sessions, patched together by Macero in even more liberal ways, and extending beyond the previously sacred limit of 30 minutes: He Loved Him Madly (1974) and Calypso Frelimo (1973), both by an octet featuring flutist Dave Liebman and guitarist Pete Cosey. It also debuted Maiysha.
The 1970s closed with two live double-LP albums that were recorded on the same day by an ensemble of trumpet, saxophone (Sonny Fortune), two guitars (Pete Cosey on the "Hendrixian" solos), bass, percussion and drums: Agharta (february 1975), that contained the 22-minute Prelude and the 27-minute Interlude and further increase the dose of rock and funk influences, and especially Pangaea (same session), simply divided in Zimbabwe (41 minutes) and Gondwana (47 minutes), two orgies of monster grooves and delirious solos.
Davis was largely missing in action during the second half of the 1970s, due to illness. He returned with two albums for sextet (or more) that featured a young Bill Evans (not the pianist) on saxophones and Marcus Miller on bass: The Man With the Horn (1981), with Back Seat Betty and Ursula, and We Want Miles (1981), with Jean-Pierre, Fast Track, Kix and a side-long version of Gershwin's My Man's Gone Now. Despite popular success, the albums that followed were the most mediocre of his career. Star People (january 1983), notable for the twin guitars of John Scofield and Mike Stern and for Davis' first use of the synthesizer, and Decoy (1983), an even more electronic work, seemed to exist only because of the title-track, as the other tracks were embarrassing. You're Under Arrest (january 1985) was perhaps his lowest point, playing two pop songs and Scofield's You're Under Arrest. Aura (february 1985), released in 1988, was much better, but it was a performance for big band (including McLaughlin and bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson) of Danish flugelhornist Palle Mikkelbourg's ten-movement neoclassical suite Aura. Tutu (february 1986), a collection of short pieces, was a collaboration with producer Marcus Miller (who played and overdubbed several instruments himself). The format of Miller providing the soundscape for Davis' improvisations was much better realized on Siesta (january 1987), the soundtrack to a movie. Amandla (december 1989) was a more traditional group effort, but Miller still composed most of the music. His last album, Doo-Bop (february 1991) was a collaboration with a rapper, a saxophonist and a keyboardist. The regression back to the pop song and short pieces was surprising for a musician who used to play 30-minute jams. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


The first group to consciously and unabashedly play "chamber jazz" was the Modern Jazz Quartet. The Modern Jazz Quartet was born in 1952, an offshoot of Dizzy Gillespie's rhythm section, although it stabilized in the classic line-up only in 1955: pianist John Lewis (the musical director), vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and Connie Kay (the last to join, replacing veteran drummer Kenny Clarke). They debuted with two 10" albums, Modern Jazz Quartet with Milt Jackson (june 1953) and Modern Jazz Quartet Volume 2 (october 1953), later summarized in 1956 as the LP Django. It already contained some elegant Lewis compositions at the border between jazz and baroque music, such as Vendome (first recorded in december 1952), La Ronde (ditto), based on Dizzy Gillespie's Two Bass Hit and later (1955) turned into a nine-minute four-movement suite, and Delaunay's Dilemma, as well as Lewis' seven-minute tribute to Django Reinhardt, Django (december 1954), reminiscent of New Orleans' funeral parades, and Lewis' ballad Milano (december 1954). The plan was to architect pieces that used improvisation only to the extent that the composition required it (not for a mere display of virtuoso style), and to target the audience of the concert hall, not the night clubs.
The Kay era opened with the 12" LP Concorde (july 1955), containing Lewis' fugue Concorde, Jackson's seven-minute Ralph's New Blues, an eight-minute Gershwin Medley, and a lengthy cover of Sigmund Romberg's Softly As in a Morning Sunrise. For Fontessa (january 1956) Lewis composed another fugue, Versailles, and the baroque, eleven-minute suite Fontessa, the peak of his "neoclassical" manner. At Music Inn (august 1956), a collaboration with Jimmy Giuffre, contained another Lewis fugue, A Fugue for Music Inn, as well as the bluesy Two Degrees East Three Degrees West. The dynamics of these pieces was often due to the dialogue between the complementary voices of Lewis and Jackson: Lewis' piano was austere and rational, while Jackson's vibes were wild and rustic; Lewis' phrasing was rooted in blues music, while Jackson's phrasing was rooted in gospel music.
Lewis also scored movie soundtracks: No Sun in Venice (april 1957), that debuted the funeral music of Cortege and the fugue Three Windows; Odds Against Tomorrow (july 1959), with Skatin' in Central Park and Odds Against Tomorrow; Under the Jasmine Tree, originally composed for a documentary and inspired by Moroccan music. The Modern Jazz Quartet's Third Stream Music bridged the format of jazz and of chamber music via Lewis' ten-minute Exposure (january 1960) with a classical chamber ensemble and Schuller's eleven-minute Conversation (september 1959). But his interest was clearly to reach beyond jazz and towards European music: the seven-movement ballet suite The Comedy (january 1962), either inspired or mocking renaissance music, the ballet suite Original Sin (march 1961), the 14-minute three-movement suite Three Little Feelings, first performed in 1957 by an orchestra and recorded by the quartet on Under the Jasmine Tree (december 1967), and the orchestral requiem In Memoriam (november 1973). TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


"Third-stream" music was mostly the invention of white composer Gunther Schuller (1925), who aimed at bridging classical and jazz music. The French horn of New York's "Metropolitan Opera Orchestra" until 1959, Schuller composed mostly classical works, but was influential on jazz music as well with this books. His Jazz Abstractions (december 1960) featured Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Scott LaFaro and many others under his conduction, and contained only two side-long pieces, Abstraction and Variants On A Theme Of Thelonious Monk.


After John Lewis, the most original of third-stream composers was perhaps another white intellectual, Bob Graettinger, whose four-movement suite City Of Glass (april 1948) and six-movement suite This Modern World (may 1953), both eventually recorded by Stan Kenton, were as subtle and imposing as anything done by the classical avantgarde, especially in the way they balanced atonality and organization, both pushed to manic extremes. Unique to Graettinger were not only the rigor but also a stylistic range that turned his pieces into labyrinthine postmodernist journeys.


White tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, a veteran of Stan Kenton (1944-45), Benny Goodman (1945-46) and Woody Herman (1947-48), was as much responsible for the evolution of bebop into cool jazz as anybody else, because his solo in Early Autumn (december 1948) had provided the template for the genre. He refined that idea on Quartets (april 1950), featuring pianist Al Haig, and containing his own ballad Marcia. The high point of his solo career was Focus (july 1961), composed and arranged by Eddie Sauter for strings. Getz was later instrumental in establishing bossanova as a worldwide phenomenon via his two hits: Antonio Jobim's Desafinado, off Jazz Samba (february 1962), a collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd, and Antonio Jobim's Girl From Ipanema off Getz/ Gilberto (march 1963), a collaboration with Brazilian guitarist Joao Gilberto. He was rejuvenated by two collaborations with Chick Corea taken up by long improvisations: Sweet Rain (march 1967), including Corea's Litha and Windows, and Captain Marvel (march 1972), including Corea's La Fiesta, Five Hundred Miles High, Time's Lie and Day Waves. Getz was the protagonist, but the atmosphere was closer to Corea's jazz-rock fusion. Basically, Gets was an articulate guest graciously hosted in Corea's living room. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


Chicago's white alto saxophonist Lee Konitz was the quintessential "cool" musician, having played with Claude Thornhill (1947), Miles Davis (1948) and Lennie Tristano (1949). His art was largely one of phrasing and timbres, not melodies and rhythms. He showed how to incorporate Charlie Parker's ideas while inventing a new kind of music. Konitz composed Tautology and Subconscious-Lee (january 1949) for the Quintet with pianist Lennie Tristano and guitarist Billy Bauer that became one of the most influential acts of post-war jazz. Konitz continued to experiment in the following years, for example in a Duet for Saxophone and Guitar (march 1951) with Bauer, and on Motion (august 1961), for a trio with drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Sonny Dallas, but mostly stuck to covers while he was playing with gurus of the cool movement such as Stan Kenton (1953), Gerry Mulligan (1953) and Jimmy Giuffre (1959). His artistic peak was probably The Lee Konitz Duets (september 1967), a series of duets with different instruments (tenor, piano, trombone, violin, guitar, second saxophone) that ran the gamut from traditional jazz to cool jazz to free jazz (particularly Duplexity with piano). Konitz's cool style permeated his (rare) compositions: Fourth Dimension (march 1969) for a piano-trombone quintet, Love Choral and Fanfare on Altissimo (july 1973), a collaboration with altoists Gary Bartz, Jackie McLean and Charlie Mariano, Free Blues on Satori (september 1974), in a quartet with pianist Martial Solal, bassist David Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and several (and sometimes lengthy) improvisations on jazz and pop standards. Compared with Charlie Parker, Konitz was ethereal and aloof, preferring high tones over deep tones. His playing was less intricate and less strident. It was the epitome of "cool".


Gil Evans, the legendary Canadian-born arranger of Claude Thornhill and Miles Davis, wasted his talent with collections of jazz standards arranged for large ensemble, starting with Gil Evans and Ten (september 1957), that featured Steve Lacy on soprano and Lee Konitz on alto. His arranging and composing skills are better represented by Out of the Cool (december 1960), with his La Nevada and George Russell's Stratusphunk. Into The Hot (october 1961) was mainly a showcase for composer Johnny Carisi, who penned Moon Taj and Angkor Wat, two early examples of abstract soundpainting. Evans was influential in blending acoustic and electric instruments, starting with Blues in Orbit (may 1969), titled after George Russell's Blues in Orbit. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


Miles Davis' white pianist Bill Evans had started in a low-key bebop vein with New Jazz Conceptions (september 1956), that contained his Waltz for Debby, and with Everybody Digs (december 1958), that contained his Peace Piece; but, after recording Kind Of Blue (april 1959) with Davis, he formed an all-white trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian that introduced a new democratic relationship among the instruments and veered towards an impressionistic sound influenced by European classical music. Unfortunately, LaFaro died after their two albums, Portrait in Jazz (december 1959) and especially Explorations (february 1961). Evans overdubbed himself at the piano for Conversations With Myself (february 1963). TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


Ohio-born pianist George Russell was the apostle of modal jazz. The moment he landed in New York he showed his skills as a composer, penning Cubano Be Cubano Bop (september 1947) for Dizzy Gillespie and A Bird in Igor's Yard (april 1949) for Buddy DeFranco. In 1953 he published his influential theory of modal jazz (playing based on modes rather than harmonies) and he applied his theories of jazz composition on his first album as a leader, Jazz Workshop (october 1956), for a sextet with trumpeter Art Farmer, altoist Hal McKusick, guitarist Barry Galbraith and pianist Bill Evans, containing the brief Concerto for Billy the Kid, Round Johnny Rondo, Ezz-thetic, Witch Hunt, Knights of the Steamtable and Ye Hypocrite Ye Beelzebub. In these three-four minute pieces he demonstrated his focus on "vertical" form (the relationship between chords and scales), letting his cohorts do most of the playing. He contributed to third-stream music with the suite for orchestra All About Rosie (june 1957).
All his subsequent albums were highly innovative. The concept album New York New York contained two lengthy Russell compositions, Big City Blues (march 1959) and Manhattan Rico (november 1958), performed by an all-star cast of John Coltrane on tenor, Bob Brookmeyer on trombone, Art Farmer on trumpet, Bill Evans on piano, Max Roach on drums, Milt Hinton on bass, and the pioneering raps of poet Jon Hendricks.
The progression towards the big-band format was completed by Jazz in the Space Age (august 1960). An orchestra with two pianists (Bill Evans and Paul Bley) performed Russell's three-movement suite Chromatic Universe, the ten-minute The Lydiot (that sounds like a series of variations on the previous one's themes), the haunting Waltz From Outer Space and especially the ambitious 13-minute modal exploration Dimensions.
If Stratusphunk (october 1960) was perhaps too academic (despite Stratusphunk), Ezz-thetics (may 1961) topped anything he had done before, despite including only three original Russell compositions. Trumpeter Don Ellis, trombonist Dave Baker, clarinetist Eric Dolphy, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joe Hunt struck an eerie balance between bebop, cool jazz and free jazz (particularly in Ezz-thetics). A septet with Ellis, Baker and Swallow recorded the complex Blues In Orbit and Stratus Seekers, the highlights of Stratus Seekers (january 1962).
After the inferior Outer View (august 1962) that contained the title-track and a cover of Jimmie Davis' country hit You Are My Sunshine sung by Sheila Jordan, Russell relocated to Scandinavia and turned to extended multi-stylistic works for orchestra implementing his idea of vertical form, such as the 28-minute Othello Ballet Suite and the Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1, collected on Othello Ballet Suite (november 1967), and especially the Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature (april 1969), his masterpiece, a chaotic fusion of jazz, classical, ethnic, blues and electronic music, performed by an enthusiastic set of players (including trumpeter Manfred Schoof, tenor saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal, drummer John Christensen). A new version in three movements (recorded in october 1970) appeared on Essence (1971), together with the Concerto for Self-Accompanied Guitar (january 1968).
The four-movement mass Listen to the Silence (june 1971) was scored for choir, organ, trumpet, tenor saxophone (Jan Garbarek), electric guitar (Terje Rypdal), electric piano (Bobo Stenson), bass and percussion. Living Time (may 1972) was a concept album on the stages of human life conceived together with Bill Evans (re-recorded in november 1995 for It's About Time), and it became the name of Russell's new orchestra, that kept expanding its stylistic range to absorb blues, rock, funk, jazz-rock (a genre that he had pioneered on Jazz Workshop, a decade before the term was invented), classical, electronic and ethnic elements. If possible, subsequent works were even more ambitious: the five-movement Vertical Form 6 (march 1977), Time Spiral, off So What (june 1983), the nine-movement The African Game (june 1983), devoted to the evolution of the human species, etc. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


White vibraphonist Teddy Charles Cohen (mainly known as "Teddy Charles") debuted as a leader in a bebop trio with a guitarist and a bassist, The Teddy Cohen Trio (november 1951). The EP New Directions (december 1952) documented a quartet that added drummer Ed Shaughnessy (Edging Out), while the EP New Directions Vol 2 (january 1953) featured a trio with piano and drums (Metalizing). A sextet with altoist Frank Morgan and tenorist Wardell Gray was documented on the EP West Coasters (february 1953). Charles' music was moving out of bebop, with loose concept of tempo and harmonies that bordered on dissonance. If the material of these early recordings was mostly covers, four original Charles compositions (Wailing Dervish, Variations On a Motive By Bud, Further Out and Etudiez Le Cahier) in a much different vein, closer to cool jazz and the third stream, surfaced on the EP New Directions Vol 3 (august 1953), for a quartet with trumpet (Shorty Rogers), bass and drums (Shelly Manne). The EP New Directions Vol 4 (august 1953) added Jimmy Giuffre on saxophone to the quartet for Free, Margo and Bobalob that predated both modal improvisation and free jazz. After an inferior EP, New Directions Vol 5 (january 1954) by a quintet with trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and a vocalist (Loup-Garou), and the EP New Directions Quartet (january 1955), that contained Relaxo Abstracto and featured a tenor saxophone and Charles Mingus on bass, Charled formed an ambitious Tentet (january 1956) with trumpet (Art Farmer), trombone, alto, baritone and tenor saxophones, guitar, piano (Mal Waldron), bass and drums. Green Blues and the eight-minute The Emperor gave a graver tone to Charles' fusion of classical and jazz music.
Those ideas were further explored in the ten-minute Word From Bird for an even bigger ensemble and the ten-minute version of Blue Greens for the piano-quartet with Mingus, both off Word From Bird (october 1956), in the three extended Charles pieces (Blues Without Woe, Hello Frisco, Dakar) on Touche (february 1957), also known as Olio, a collaboration with trumpeter Thad Jones and tenorist Frank Wess, featuring a rhythm section with pianist Mal Waldron and drummer Elvin Jones, in the three main attractions (Blues Become Elektra, Arlene and No More Nights) of the trumpet-based Vibe-Rant Quintet (april 1957), again with Waldron on piano, in the eight-minute Bunni on Coolin' (april 1957) for another sextet with Waldron, and especially in the 14-minute Take Three Parts Jazz Suite on The Prestige Jazz Quartet (june 1957) in a quartet with Waldron. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


The career of Boston-based white pianist Ran Blake Ran Blake (1935) was influenced by two key musicians whom he met in his twenties: vocalist Jeanne Lee (1957) and "third stream" composer Gunther Schuller (1959). Torn between abstract improvisation and structured composition, Blake quickly absorbed a broad range of musical languages, from film noir to gospel music, from Thelonious Monk to Olivier Messiaen. The Newest Sound Around (december 1961) was a showcase of his interaction with Lee, from the tragic (Where Flamingos Fly) to the comic ( Season in the Sun, Evil Blues), as well as for his gospel-ish solo-piano style (Church on Russell Street). The latter was further explored on the highly original collections Plays Solo Piano (may 1965), with Vanguard and Sister Tee, and Blue Potato (april 1969), with Blue Potato, despite too many revisions of standards. After a long hiatus, Blake started recording solo-piano albums again, but his compositions were often hidden among tedious interpretations of standards: Breakthru (december 1975), with Breakthru, Wende (august 1976), the best of the decade, with Wende, East Wind, Jim Crow and Airline, The Realization of a Dream (june 1977), with Racial Vertigo and Death of Edith Piaf. He used a symphony orchestra on Portfolio of Doktor Mabuse (october 1977), with The Frog the Fountain & Aunt Jane, Chicken Monster and Portfolio of Docktor Mabuse, and recycled old compositions on Rapport (april 1978). The originals on Film Noir (january 1980), such as Spiral Staircase, Touch Of Evil and Garden of Delight scored for various chamber settings, reinvented the atmospheres of classic films. The highlight of its follow-up, Vertigo (november 1984), was a Vertigo Suite. Other notable compositions were: Duke Dreams on Duke Dreams (may 1981), Indian Winter on Suffield Gothic (september 1983) and especially the ten-minute Sonata for Two Pianos on Improvisations (june 1981) with fellow pianist Jaki Byard. The best album of the decade was Short Life of Barbara Monk (august 1986), both intellectual and elegant, containing Impresario of Death, Short Life of Barbara Monk and Pourquoi Laurent?. TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


Spectacular Detroit-born vocalist Lillie-Mae "Betty Carter" Jones, who sang with Lionel Hampton (1948-51), did more than simply use the voice as an instrument: she used the voice as "the" instrument. The Modern Sound (august 1960) debuted her tour de force, the seven-minute Sounds, that relied entirely on her creative singing. Her style became both more abstract and more personal on Album (1973), mostly composed by her, that was more in line with the spirit of free jazz than with the spirit of bebop. Her crowning performance was a 25-minute version of Sounds on the double-LP The Audience (december 1979). TM, ®, Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.