Sunday, 24 February 2013

"Cool" - BBC Arena documentary


One of the best jazz films made in recent years. Even if you don't like jazz, you should watch this visually stunning 2009 BBC documentary on 1950s cool jazz. 

"The classic cool combo consisted of 3, 4 or 5 musicians, a rhythm section with the voices supplied by horns and usually a piano. They'd begin with  theme, improvise around it for several minutes and return to it. Young men with a studious air, in well cut suits and slim ties."

Cool jazz was cool for a number of reasons. It was cool music - a relaxed and poised counterpoint to the agitation of Bebop - but it also had attitude and style. It was a precursor of 1960s mod culture with its sharp suits and button down collared shirts.

"If you're good you should be wearing sharp clothes," - Charlie Davidson.

This excellent documentary, produced and directed by Anthony Wall, exudes a certain cool of its own. The narration is minimal and the pace relaxed. The written quotes, archive clips and photos set the backdrop of 1950s America but also compliment the music and let it tell its own story, in its own time.

"As always in jazz, its essence is the tension between improvisation and order, between freedom and discipline" - Time magazine November 1954 (on Dave Brubeck).

If the word "cool" is one of the most overused expressions of the 21st century, watch this and find out about when it actually meant something.

Featuring Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Art Farmer, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack Kerouac and original incidental music by George Taylor... This is the birth of the cool. 

"I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to sound like a dry Martini" - Paul Desmond.

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