Jazz 100
West Coast Cool
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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Birth of the Cool
Miles Davis
1950 [Capitol]


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Cool jazz offered musicians an alternative to the lengthy explorations and hot jams favoured by the boppers. The tracks on Birth are all under four minutes and feature the laid-back style of playing that would eventually take the West Coast by storm. Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach and Gil Evans would all go on to individual success.





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The Best of... with Chet Baker
The Gerry Mulligan Quartet
1952-53 [Pacific Jazz/Capitol]


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Matinee idol looks and the coolest trumpet in the west helped launch Baker to stardom while a member of Gerry Mulligan's quartet. All except one of the tracks here were recorded over an 11-month period in 1952-53. Baker's drug addiction guaranteed that the road ahead would be a rocky one - dying in suspicious circumstances in 1988.





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My Fair Lady
Shelly Manne & His Men
1956 [Contemporary]


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A cheerful band leader who knew how to cool his heels, drummer Manne made his best records for the Contemporary label from 1955-62. This one was a huge hit in its day, thanks largely to the traditional piano trio format with André Previn at the ivories. Always open to new ideas, Manne went on to work in films and run his own nightclub.





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Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
Art Pepper
1957 [Contemporary]


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A chance opportunity led to altoist Art Pepper meeting up with Miles Davis' rhythm section for a 1957 jam session at LA's Contemporary Studios. The album's track listing follows the order the songs were played in the studio - giving it an undeniable sense of breathtaking spontaneity and emotion. Pepper's finest and highly recommended.





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The Poll Winners
Barney Kessel
1957 [Contemporary]


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In 1956 guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Shelly Manne swept the major jazz polls in their respective instrumental categories. Top-billed Kessel at times sounds like the misfit alongside his 'cooler' counterparts, but the trio worked well enough for five more albums after this, one with Cannonball Adderley.





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Chet
Chet Baker
1959 [Riverside]


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An instrumental album with trumpeter Baker joined by star-studded company including Herbie Mann (alto flute), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Bill Evans (piano), and Kenny Burrell (guitar). Riverside records at the time was a leading cool jazz label. Here Baker excels on a set of romantically sublime ballads strutting the coolest trumpet in the west.





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Time Out
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
1959 [Columbia]


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In retrospect hard to understand why this album drew so much criticism on release, but Brubeck's white middle class origins and obvious interest in classical music managed to shake more than a few conventional foundations. Brubeck penned all the record's numbers, with the exception of the mega-hit 'Take Five' by Paul Desmond.





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Portrait in Jazz
Bill Evans Trio
1959 [Riverside]


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Bassist Scott LaFaro only had time to make two studio albums with pianist Evans before his untimely death in 1961. 'Autumn Leaves' shows how good they were together, while drummer Paul Motian shines on 'Come Rain Or Come Shine'. Although basically a set of standards, this music impresses with its inventiveness and vibrancy.





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Take Ten
Paul Desmond
1963 [RCA Victor]


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West Coast Cool had long since reached its peak when Paul Desmond made this fine album. He cleverly reworks the timing of his hit composition with Dave Brubeck 'Take Five' into what is literally a 'Take Ten'. Guitarist Jim Hall features throughout and excels on the Latin-influenced tracks. Perhaps best described as modern Latin cool.


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