Cool Jazz emerged as the dominate Jazz style in the 1940’s. The name itself can be attributed to record marketing. Most attribute the start of the term with the Columbia records release of Classics in Jazz: Cool and Quiet in 1953 (detailed in the book by Henry Martin and Keith Waters, Jazz: The First 100 Years). It is primarily used to describe a subdued almost understated feeling in the music and features a rich variety of Jazz musicians. Here we take a look at our 10 favorite Cool Jazz artists along with some samples of their works. Sit back and enjoy some great music.
10. Lee Konitz
One of Lennie Tristanos’ (Lennie appears later in our list) students. Lee lent his tenor sax skills on a variety of great Cool Jazz recordings during his career including Birth of Cool (again, later in our list).
9. Chet Baker
Like most artists of the time, you can hear a lot of influence from Miles Davis in a lot of the early Chet Baker albums and but he developed his own personal style. The cool, laid back sound of his trumpet always sounds so natural and pleasing. Check out Time After Time for a great Cool Jazz song reference.
8. Lennie Tristano
Although Lennie did not have a lot of recordings, he was an important teacher and had a variety of students which we all recognize. His most notable student was probably Lee Konitz who appeared early on our list. For his recordings, most known is his self titled album which features the opening track Line Up. We will save a discussion of Line Up for another day and article.
7. Blossom Dearie
One of my favorite Jazz vocalist ever, Blossom was also an accomplished pianist. If you are not familiar with Blossom and her sweet voice, do yourself a favor and check out the song below:
6. Art Pepper
5. Gerry Mulligan
Another artist featured on The Birth of Cool and had some amazing recordings doing collaborations with the like of Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan is one of a kind. With a laid back baritone sax sound, he made some amazing music with his quartet The Gerry Mulligan Quartet as can be heard below.
4. Buster Harding
One of the driving forces of Cool Jazz in the late 40s and early 50s. Harding was an accomplished pianist and a legend in the cool jazz community.
3. Stan Getz
2. Dave Brubeck
Brubeck was an amazing pianist and composer whose music had a clear classical influence. He is known for introducing and bringing new time time signatures into Jazz music. A perfect example of Cool Jazz is his Time Out album recorded in ’59. View our full review of the album here.
1. Miles Davis
Where to start, Miles is one of the most influential artists ever and had such an impact on Jazz. Of course Kind of Blue is my favorite album from him, the 1949 release of The Birth of Cool is an amazing Cool Jazz piece. He did it in collaboration with Gil Evans. Listen to the full album below.