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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Jazzing The Cool With Ted Gioia

Keep it cool: jazz historian Ted Gioia joins us for the music and meaning of Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bix Beiderbecke, Miles Davis and more.

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  • Lester Young

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    Photo: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

    Tenor saxophonist Lester Young's playing influenced a whole generation of musicians, as did his hip, laidback way of talking and dressing.

  • Charlie Parker

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    Photo: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

    Avatar of cool: Charlie Parker in 1947.

  • The Birth and Death of the Cool

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    Photo: Book cover

    Jazz historian Ted Gioia's new book traces the history of cool in American culture.

  • Miles Davis Birth of the Cool

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    Photo: Album cover.

    The 1957 landmark album BIRTH OF THE COOL gathered recording sessions actually done seven to eight years earlier

  • Blue Train

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    Photo: Album cover.

    Blue Note's iconic album covers helped create a cultural brand of jazz for the record label.

  • Ornette Coleman This Is Our Music

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    Photo: Album cover

    Avant-cool: the Ornette Coleman Quartet as a herald of the 1960s New Thing movement.

Cool School

For many decades in 20th-century America, jazz was an arbiter of cool. And while it’s never been cool to talk about coolness (true cool subscribes very much to the Taoist edict that “those who know do not speak”), certain artists, albums and movements have become such iconic talismans of cool that a prominent jazz historian has now written a book about them.

In his new book The Birth (and Death) of the Cool, Ted Gioia (who’s also the author of The History of Jazz and West Coast Jazz) argues that what many think of as “cool” – the attitude, sound, look, and way of life – came about in large part because of jazz. The notion of cool, Gioia writes, has only more recently been co-opted and commodified in a way that’s nearly drained the term of its meaning.

Gioia joins us on this edition of Night Lights to talk about the influence of jazz artists on notions of cool. We talk about other cultural figures and forces of ‘cool,’ too, such as DJ Symphony Sid Torin, novelist Jack Kerouac, and the Blue Note record label that helped shape the birth of the cool in the mid-20th century.

Artists On The Program

  • Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke
  • Saxophonist Lester Young
  • Bandleader and composer Duke Ellington
  • Saxophonist Charlie Parker
  • Trumpeter Miles Davis
  • Saxophonist Gerry Mulligan
  • Trumpeter Chet Baker
  • Pianist Thelonious Monk
  • Saxophonist Ornette Coleman
  • Pianist Vince Guaraldi
  • Drummer Shelly Manne

Night Lights Outtakes

Some comments from Ted Gioia that we didn’t have room for in the final program:

From The Department Of If-You-Dug-That, Dig-This

Finally, per Gioia’s remarks about Thelonious Monk‘s first fan in popular culture, watch Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs, jazzing it up with the 1960 version of an iPod–a transistor radio with headphones:

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Music Heard On This Episode

Fallout
Shelly Manne — Shelly Manne and His Men Play Peter Gunn (OJC, 1959)
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Fallout
Shelly Manne — Shelly Manne and His Men Play Peter Gunn (OJC, 1959)
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Singin' the Blues
Bix Beiderbecke — Bix Restored V. 1: 1924-27 (Origin, 1995)
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Dickie's Dream
Lester Young/Count Basie — America's #1 Band (Sony, 2003)
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Mood Indigo
Duke Ellington — Centennial Collection (RCA, 2004)
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Moose the Mooche
Charlie Parker — Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes (Savoy, 2002)
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Deception
Miles Davis — Birth of the Cool (Blue Note/Capitol, 1956)
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Something Cool
June Christy — Something Cool (Capitol/Blue Note, 1955)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Lullaby of the Leaves
Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker — The Original Quartet (Blue Note, 1998)
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Let's Cool One
Thelonious Monk — Genius of Modern Music V. 2 (Blue Note, 2001)
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All Blues
Miles Davis — Kind of Blue (Sony, 1959)
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Blue Train
John Coltrane — Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957)
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Poise
Ornette Coleman — This Is Our Music (Sepia Tone/Atlantic, 1960)
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Christmas Is Coming
Vince Guaraldi — The Definitive Vince Guaraldi (Fantasy, 2009)
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Miles Runs the Voodoo Down
Miles Davis — Bitches Brew (Sony, 1970)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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