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Tirro’s The Birth of the Cool published

April 7, 2009

Frank Tirro bw

Frank Tirro’s new book, The Birth of the Cool of Miles Davis and His Associates, has been nominated for a 2009 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award. Recently published by the College Music Society and Pendragon Press, The Birth of Cool is accompanied by an audio CD of related music. The ARSC award recognizes excellence in historical recorded sound research.

About The Birth of the Cool

In the wake of World War II, jazz musicians found themselves confronting transition as well as opportunity. Big band swing and “sweet” commercial music, once so popular, had peaked as social diversions and were, in a sense, victims of the War. A handful of young African-American musicians challenged the function of jazz as entertainment and dance music with a “hot,” uncompromising new idiom—bebop. Their revolutionary efforts were soon followed by explorations in harmony, orchestration, counterpoint, and meter that were perceived as “cool.” In this volume, Professor Tirro considers systematically the celebrated recordings made between 1949 and 1951 by the Miles Davis Nonet, performances that, after the fact, became known as the “Birth of the Cool.” In addition to identifying stylistic precedents and to stressing the con¬nection of various participants to the Claude Thornhill Band, he convincingly summarizes the attributes of cool jazz, describes the professional context that generated these landmark recordings, and directs the readers attention to the contributions of arrangers and performers alike. Discussions of the music are organized by arranger — Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, and John Carisi. Evans, Mulligan, Lewis, and Davis must be regarded as unqualified titans of modern jazz; their collaboration in this endeavor is but one fascinating, artistically rewarding episode in long, distinguished careers. A compact disc with relevant selections accompanies the text.

About Frank Tirro

Music historian  Frank Tirro is a specialist in both the music of the Renaissance and the history of jazz.  In addition to his most recent publication, The Birth of the Cool of Miles Davis and His Associates (College Music Society and Pendragon Press),  Tirro is also the author of Jazz: A History (W. W. Norton), Renaissance Musical Sources in the Archive of San Petronio in Bologna (Haenssler-Verlag), and Living With Jazz (Harcourt Brace). In addition, he co-authored The Humanities (Houghton Mifflin) and edited a volume of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Duke University Press).  He served as Associate Editor for the new American National Biography, a multi-volume publication sponsored jointly by Oxford University Press and the American Council of Learned Societies.  In this, he was primarily responsible for jazz, ragtime, and related areas.

Professor Tirro received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska, his master’s degree from Northwestern University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.  He has been a Fellow of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for
Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. Currently he is Professor of Music at the Yale School of Music, where he served as Dean from 1980-89.

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