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  Listen Up! 7/28/03 Listen Up!

Monday, July 28

Miles Davis, “The Complete Birth of Cool,” Capitol Records. A long, long time ago, in the fall of 1984, Papa Ray recommended a record to me. He’s actually recommended many records to me over the years, but this one I always remember because I hadn’t been working at Vintage Vinyl very long, and another employee at the time, Gary Sykes, had just sold off a big chunk of his extensive jazz collection. Papa Ray – who hadn’t yet become a father and so was mostly referred to as Tom or T back then – held up the copy of “Birth of the Cool,” asked me if I knew it, and told me I really needed to buy it. Hundreds of great jazz titles from which to choose, and this was the one Tom decided was necessary for my education at the time. He was right. I played the heck out of that record. There are very few jazz albums I’ve heard as much as my favorite pop records, but Miles Davis has made two of them, this and “Kind of Blue.” “Birth of the Cool” wasn’t intended to be an album, but was an interesting experiment for Davis, who was trying to lead a group of like-minded individuals away from the speed-driven frenzy of bebop, and into a sophisticated, complexly layered style that never quite caught on, yet which wound up influencing tons of stuff that came later. This package, released five years ago, collects all the original recordings of a variant of that band, and a whole set of live recordings which are revelatory, as well.

Terence Blanchard, “Bounce,” Blue Note Records. I suppose I should acknowledge that this record is playing, but I haven’t really been paying close attention. When I do stop to listen, I like it, but it’s not crying out for me to notice it. Blanchard is mining some late 60s Miles styles. His trumpet playing is intense and crisp, and the band is solid, if not exactly distinctive. This is probably a good record, but there are a lot of those in the world.

The Civil Tones, “Vodka and Peroxide,” Pravda Records. The Civil Tones are a St. Louis band that’s been around for about ten years (seven or so with the current line-up). These guys specialize in instrumentals inspired by sixties forms, with neat twists of imagination that make their stuff well worth hearing. Extra points for a cool cover of the theme to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” deducted for waiting to appear on record until the show ended its original run. All the musicianship here is excellent, the songs are fun, and you’ll have a good time with this album.

--Steve Pick

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