Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool (1957), 5/10

Birth of the Cool is a surprisingly inconsistent set of songs from a quality standpoint despite their consistency in tone and aesthetic as cool jazz, especially considering Miles and the band’s collective talent. The opening two tracks set a great tone and pace, which is then obliterated by a confusing and clearly uninspired iteration of “Moon Dreams”. Things then take a while to get going again before the exceptionally passionate tracks in “Budo”, “Godchild” and “Boplicity”. The rest of these songs are either unmemorable or made up of simply unmoving arrangements and performances. This may partly be due to the record’s inception as a compilation, but this is unlikely as the sessions are similar in tone and intention, remarkably so in fact. The inclusion of such a large and varied horn section works in favor of the more clearly passionate and driving songs, yet to the detriment of the ballads at times. You can hear Miles’ individual talent shine through, of course, despite the band’s range but it isn’t quite enough to make the experience all that exceptional, especially in comparison to his later works it simply doesn’t compare in importance or in gratification. Cool jazz certainly has seen more complete and exceptional albums, ironically some of which pull inspiration from this record’s qualities in sound. The great songs are truly great, but the lesser songs are exceptionally poor and detract too substantially from the listening experience to call it one of the greats. Despite this, it’s worth exploring for its particularly high highs when it comes to its smooth, refreshingly graceful impression.