Jazz Photo Compilation
Miles Davis · Cool and Collected
01. So What
04. Stella By Starlight
05. Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) (Alternate Take)
07. 'Round Midnight
08. Bye Bye Blackbird
09. Seven Steps To Heaven
10. Time After Time
12. Human Nature
13. It's About That Time (Remix Featuring Carlos Santana)
Here's what it is.
There are certain aspects of life that just are not meant to be defined by words. You know what it is when you encounter it, but it works on a level words can't touch.
The whole concept of cool is like that. In fact, cool is so cool that dictionaries often use the word itself to attempt to describe it. "Socially adept" doesn't quite cut it. A lot of people describe themselves as cool, but those are people who don't have a clue as to what cool is. The people who are cool are, well, too cool to label themselves that way. When you're cool, other people already know it, so there's no need speak of it.
Miles Davis never said he was cool. His music said it all.
Cool and Collected is something of a sound bite in relation to how his music defined jazz in the latter half of the twentieth century. But what a sound bite it is!
Focusing mostly on the work he did in the mid- to late-'50s with various incarnations of the Miles Davis Quintet, this compilation showcases some of the tunes that made Miles Davis the epitome of cool. So What, arguably the tune that veered jazz away from bebop toward a more modal style, appropriately opens the album. In this 1959 version, Cannonball Adderly on alto sax and John Coltrane on tenor sax are also featured, as well as Bill Evans on piano, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
Much of Cool and Collected centers around the triumvirate of Davis, Coltrane, and Adderley. "Milestones," "Stella By Starlight," and "Fran-Dance" all showcase the three horn players bouncing scales off each other, and the interplay between them, nearly forty years later, still astounds. Between those four pieces alone, there's nearly 25 minutes of trumpet and sax swirling and dipping like the aural equivalents of birds at play.
But it's when Davis and Coltrane play together on the Thelonious Monk classic, "'Round Midnight," that may be the single most telling moment of what made Miles so freakin' cool. Here (and to a lesser extent, on "Bye Bye Blackbird"), we're reminded of an era when smoky, dimly lit bars were a sanctuary from the pressures of the middle class, and when mystery lay just beyond the next cocktail.
While the bulk of Cool and Collected focuses on his cool jazz work in the '50s, it does offer a few glimpses of where Davis would later head. A young Herbie Hancock is featured on "Seven Steps to Heaven" (1963), and the 1969 recording of "E.S.P." also features Wayne Shorter on sax and Ron Carter on bass. Particularly on the latter piece, we hear an inkling of the profound influence Davis had on the fusion movement, which would become the driving force of jazz in the 1970s.
No single album can encapsulate the work of a man whose career spanned nearly fifty years, especially in the case of someone like Miles Davis.
He defied every convention placed before his vision, and for over forty years, he constantly redefined jazz. What Cool and Collected does is show us in snapshots how he rose to that stature. While I would have liked to see more '70s work, what's included here is a valuable primer as to how it all began.
And how cool is that?
The Best of Blue Note