Pumpin’ On Mi Stereo: Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool

It is agony to step into nearly any coffee shop and with heart-sinking regularity hear the poignant, the powerful, the potent majesty of Miles Davis reduced to the status of background music.

Anyone who has ears and delusions of being “hip” has heard the doleful laments of Kind of Blue and thinks themselves cool for it. That album is but one of many that Davis shaped the world of music with, and it is his early Birth of the Cool which sparked my love affair with the soaring splendour of jazz.

Davis is the titan of post-war music. No man, or woman, has done so much to shape modern music, and when was asked what he did by Nancy Regan, the reply was: “I’ve changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fuck the president?” That shocking wit, that archness, it is all present in this record.

This is music at its most tasteful and forceful. It toys with a certain spirituality, but becomes not priestly but magical. Tracks like ‘Jeru’ and ‘Budo’ inspired a generation of imitators looking to capture what he made effortless. Some like Gerry Mulligan were successful, but the posturing and posing black-clad denizens of the coffee shop show us how hard it is to be as cool as Miles Davis.

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