Jeff Presslaff (Tim Bremser)
"Birth of the Cool" was one of the great unfinished projects of jazz history.
—Jeff Presslaff, Winnipeg jazz musician, composer and educator
The word "cool"
in jazz has more than a few meanings. For example: "He's a cool cat,"
"That's a cool tune" or "Cool it!" On the other hand, if you go way
back, to the late 1940s, the word had a whole different meaning when it
was applied to a certain kind of jazz: more laid back, not frenetic,
almost more intellectual. The truth is the music existed long before it
became known as cool jazz.
In 1948, a young Miles Davis formed a band with his good friend, arranger and composer, Toronto-born Gil Evans. It was a nonet that also included Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis, among others. The band recorded several sessions in 1949 and 1950, which were released under the title The Birth of the Cool in 1957.
Fast forward to Winnipeg, 2011, when trombonist and pianist Jeff Presslaff got the cool muse. Presslaff is a former New Yorker, who's been living, playing and teaching jazz in Winnipeg since 1997. He's shared the bandstand with Benny Carter, Bob Brookmeyer and Edgar Meyer, among many others. The music from The Birth of the Cool album has been a longtime favourite of Presslaff's ever since he was a teenager.
same inspiration that Davis, Evans and Mulligan had almost 65 years ago
is what drove Presslaff to revisit the music and do something quite
special with it.
Presslaff set himself a formidable task. In an interview with Chris Smith from the Winnipeg Free Press, Presslaff calls the original work, "One of the great unfinished projects of jazz history." Presslaff wanted to pick up where the nonet left off. He tried to imagine what their next step would have been, or in what direction they would have gone. As Presslaff said to Smith, "I wanted to create the creative condition of the original, the instrumentation and number of composers."
Well, he did. Presslaff asked five other Winnipeg composers, plus two from Brandon and Dean McNeill from the University of Saskatchewan to each write a tune in the spirit of his project. They ended up with 12 new compositions arranged for a nonet.
Presslaff calls it the Complete Rebirth of the Cool project, and their musical premiere takes place in Winnipeg on May 4 at the Park Theatre. The band will also be performing in June, at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon. Presslaff has included several of the original tunes from The Birth of the Cool in the concert as well.
The featured composers are: McNeill, Presslaff, Danielle Baert, Will Bonness, Ken Gold, Chuck McClelland, Keith Price and Jon Stevens.
The Complete Rebirth of the Cool concert starts at 8:00 p.m at the Park Theatre.