[Dixielandjazz] Working hard at playing cool

Jim Denham james@jiming.demon.co.uk
Sat, 10 Aug 2002 21:07:04 +0100

In message <B97AAFB9.3AB3%nancyink@ulink.net>, Nancy Giffin
<nancyink@ulink.net> writes
>I'm always interested in posts about trad vs. bebop.
>Just had a long chat with my 80-year-old dad, and one thing he shared was
>his first experience going to a club to hear bebop for the first time back
>in the 50s.
>His initial impression of bebop:
>He said that everyone in the audience had very serious expressions and sat
>very still and emotionless while sl-o-o-owly dragging on cigarettes in
>l-o-o-ong holders. NO ONE was tappin' their foot because everyone was
>expected to listen -- very intently. In his view, the musicians were all
>"working hard" at "playing cool," the music was lacking melody, and solos
>just sounded like a bunch of scales played up and down. All of it left him
>cold. (Or did he mean cool?)
>Question: Since I wasn't even born till '58, I'm clueless as to what was
>going on in music and in the world at that time. Music history is not my
>forte, so will someone older and wiser please fill me in on what the hell
>happened to cause "cool" to replace "emotional" melody?
>Thanks for feedback, on or off-list.
>Love and hugs,
>Dixielandjazz mailing list

-A very good question, Nancy: I was born in 1954, and my first exposure to
"jazz" was British "trad" of the early 1960's: horrible! It could very well
have put me off jazz for life, had I not accidentally come upon a pile of old
78's, which I can still remember now. Every one was a brilliant revelation:
Mezzrow/Ladnier (Royal Garden Blues/If You See me Comin'), Eddie Condon's
Quartet (Indiana/ Oh Baby), "The Jungle Band" (New East St. Louis Toodle-O
/Ridin' On A Blue Note), the Benny Goodman Quartet (Runnin' Wild/ Moonglow) The
Venuti-Lang Allstars (After You've Gone/Farewell Blues)...and finally The Louis
Armstrong Allstars (Basin Street Blues parts One and Two).

What I liked about those sides was that they sounded "cool" (as well as "hot"):
very unlike the "uncool" and embarrassing British trad of the day.

The problem with the real "Cool School" (Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and the
West Coast crowd)was that they counterposed "cool" to "hot": no need! Louis was
the "coolest" player ever, when he wanted to be (eg: his big band version of
"Stardust"), and, of course Bix was the inventor of "cool" (eg: "Singin' the

"Cool" was just a pose. I should know: I was a poser. If I'd heard Parker and
Gillespie then...who knows?


Jim Denham

Jim Denham