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
- The Subterraneans (only film to date based on a Kerouac novel, with a jazz score and jazz musicians in the cast)
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: