Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Cool jazz in the hot weather...

At the moment - everything seems to be very stressful for most people. I'm coming to the end of school and therefore revising for my a-levels, applying for university and student loans and even trying to find a job - I really am growing up! I thought I would take this opportunity to create a post about (who I believe) to be one of the most influencial musicians of the twentieth century, as well as one of the greatest musicians who ever lived: Miles Davis. As nearly all of my posts are about classical music, I thought it would be appropriate to explore jazz - especially as it is one of the most popular genres of music today. I've been listening to Miles Davis lately, as it really is instantly calming and always puts a smile on my face (especially in the hot weather at the moment). Unfortunately, I don't know as much about jazz as I would like to. Despite playing the saxophone and piano, I wouldn't dare try it as I would be afraid that I wouldn't do it justice. Listening to it on the other hand is one of my musical therapeutic techniques.

Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
Not only was Davis an incredibly talented jazz trumpeter - he also worked as a bandleader and composer. At the time, jazz was being developed into something new and exciting. Just as Charlie Parker was the pioneer of bebop, Davis was the pioneer of the genre called 'cool jazz'. This was developed because of his relationship with composer and arranger Gil Evans, who Davis worked with regularly. Cool jazz was formed by a group of musicians who were fed up with the virtuosic and complex styles of bebop, and wanted to create a more relaxed and mellow type of jazz. The name of the genre came from the first album developed by the group, called: 'Birth of Cool'. 

Miles Davis with composer
and arranger: Gil Evans
Davis' playing style was something original in the jazz scene. Before, audiences were used to the loud and brash sounds of musicians such as Louis Armstrong, who is probably now, more famous for the way he sang. However, as a trumpeter, he is a good example of the complete contrast of styles. Armstrong played with a heavy vibrato, often remastering great jazz tunes and decorating them with elaborate improvisation. Davis, however played with a smooth, controlled tone that fit perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere of cool jazz. After Armstrong came Charlie Parker - the king of bebop, whose playing style was virtuosic, harmonically experimental and rhythmically complex - another contrast to Davis' style. For me, listening to Miles Davis is similar to listening to Frank Sinatra. 

One of my favourites of Davis' is 'Kind of Blue' from the album of the same name. The entire album was composed as a series of modal sketches that gave each of the players the scales and harmonies needed for the track, therefore allowing them to create something entirely improvised. The feel of the piece is achieved immediately by the cool tones of the piano (Bill Evans) and the gentle plucking of the double bass (Paul Chambers). The muted trumpet solo, followed by the saxophone solo almost feel as if they could go on forever - if only they did!

1 comment:

  1. Now the temperature's dropped, you'll have do a post about hot jazz for cool weather!