As I understand, Cool Jazz is a post Bebop style of Jazz. What makes Cool Jazz different than Bebop? Also, What are some albums that you can recommend on cool Jazz besides Miles' Birth of the cool?


2 Answers 2


See the "Overview" section of Wikipedia's "Cool jazz" article. Quoted here:

Broadly, "cool" refers to a number of post-war jazz styles employing a more subdued approach than that found in other contemporaneous jazz idioms. As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill suggest "the tonal sonorities of these conservative players could be compared to pastel colors, while the solos of [Dizzy] Gillespie and his followers could be compared to fiery red colors."

(In this context, Dizzy Gillespie is very much associated with bebop.)

Along the same lines, my prof for "jazz harmony & arranging" explained (apocryphally, I think) that "bebop" was so named because you couldn't really express its melodic lines without resorting to something like a fast scat ("beep-baaaahp-ba-dahp-bahp-bah-dahp---daht--dah-daht-bahp" and so forth) to keep up with all the syncopation, rhythmic punctuation, and melodic flourishes involved. And that's pretty much the opposite of cool jazz. Cool jazz still has a groove, mind you, but it's in no hurry to get where it's going, because it's cool, man. Bebop often sounds hyperactive, and cool jazz often (always?) sounds chill.

To get recommendations of cool jazz albums, I recommend that you go back to that Wikipedia "Cool jazz" article again. The range of styles that can be categorized under cool jazz is very broad and overlappy (to wit: all "West Coast jazz" is considered cool jazz by some). My own classic cool jazz album choices are "Kind of Blue" (Davis) and "Time Out" (Brubeck), but you can probably find better stuff by digging in to that article.

Here's an article that does a decent job of explaining the difference between cool jazz and bebop. It's necessarily a bit simplistic ("there are two ways to play jazz"), but it includes some interesting, brief "history of" details, such as the influence of Lester Young, "the forefather of Cool Jazz": https://www.thejazzpianosite.com/jazz-piano-lessons/jazz-genres/cool-jazz-explained/

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    I would not include Kind of Blue as Cool jazz. Kind of Blue is the defining album for Modal jazz. Columbia released a compilation of his Cool jazz works in '57 called "Birth of the Cool" Jan 3, 2016 at 20:05
  • Oops. Birth of the cool is on Capitol, not Columbia. Jan 3, 2016 at 20:39

Bebop has frequent chord changes, many notes in the melody, and brisk tempos.
Cool has less frequent chord changes, sparse melody, and moderate tempos.

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