My post on The Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions prompted some fascinating emails to the Jazz West Coast Yahoo Group from some really knowledgeable people. I am excerpting some of their comments here.
From Gordon Jack (July 19, 2018):
When I interviewed Gerry Mulligan for my book Fifties Jazz Talk he told me, “For the Miles Davis nonet I actually arranged seven of the twelve numbers that were recorded although I have seen most of them credited to somebody else over the years. There were two other titles not included on the Birth of the Cool album, ‘S’il Vous Plait’ and ‘Why Do I Love You?’ which were arranged by John Lewis”.
Those two Lewis charts were performed as you know at the Royal Roost on September 4th. 1948 with Mike Zwerin included on trombone.
On Mulligan’s Re-Birth of the Cool album, “Deception” and “Budo” are both listed as Mulligan charts in addition to “Rocker,” “Godchild,” “Venus De Milo,” “Darn That Dream” and “Jeru.”
From Jeff Sultanof (July 19, 2018):
In an article I wrote for the Journal of Jazz Studies about preparing the Hal Leonard volume of “Birth of the Cool,” I stated that “Deception” was started by someone else and then Mulligan took over from the solo section on. The parts bear this out. Just recently Lewis Porter and I discussed this “mystery” hand; it is probably Miles, but whomever it was, he did not know proper music notation. Gordon is correct that arranger credits had been inaccurate for years and are finally correct. Thank goodness the actual pencil-copied parts exist after years of speculation.
I should also say that Jazz Lines Publications have published performing editions of whatever they can license of the Birth repertoire. I was very glad of this, as I was let go from Hal Leonard before the book was completed, it was finished in a rush, and there were errors; I got another look at this music. The Jazz Lines Editions are definitive if anyone wishes to play these pieces.
Both “Why Do I Love You” and “S’il Vous Plait” have parts missing, but yes, they are clearly in Lewis’ hand. Next to Mulligan, Lewis wrote more for this ensemble than anyone else. This was a true rehearsal band, and I’ve often thought of the pieces written that were tossed because the writers were trying to make the concept work. There is a piece by George Russell that is missing a piano part that I would love to revisit if I could ever get permission from the estate to re-examine what they have. When those boxes of music were first delivered to the King Brand Music office from storage, the main focus was the Gil Evans repertoire, which was all there, including “Time of the Barracudas.”
The other unfortunate thing is that Johnny Mandel was supposed to write for the nonet, but opted to go to California to wait out his union card. He was very philosophical about it when I spoke to him, but I could tell that he was sorry he missed out. At least he got to play with the Basie band for some months, his dream fulfilled.
As I wrote in the article, the only arrangements that were not transcriptions on Re-Birth were “Rouge” (Miles happily did not have the original score; I believe John Lewis had it. New parts were created for the session, but they sadly had mistakes), “Moon Dreams” and “Boplicity.” Gunther Schuller had asked Gil Evans for copies of the parts to study them and perhaps play them. As a result, these survived complete and were not in Miles’ music that he stored. “Jeru” had been published by Gunther’s company, but was a mess!!! Many of the other transcriptions were made by Mark Lopeman, who did a great job but was delighted to finally see what had been originally written when the parts turned up. We may remember that when Mulligan toured to support the Re-birth album, he invited Mark to join the group, making it a tentet, which also allowed Mulligan to play the tentet repertoire. Mulligan added new backgrounds to the classic Birth repertoire and those parts are at the Mulligan collection at the Library of Congress; needless to say, they are fascinating by providing new Mulligan music. Mark and I have discussed many of his excellent transcriptions of other big band repertoire since. By the way, he is currently playing in the pit of the Broadway revival of “Carousel.”
I got to work with Mulligan toward the end of his life on two play-alongs, and I treasure the many hours we spent discussing many things, but especially his music. How many people get to study the scores of a composer with the composer himself? Pure heaven. Mulligan and I didn’t talk too much about the Davis nonet, and I think he was happy about that because he felt that that was an area of his life that he had little to add to. His career had many nooks and crannies (Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill); now that I think of it, we didn’t discuss Chet Baker too much either.
From Fernando Ortiz de Urbina (January 24, 2019)
You say in your post about BotC that ‘”Rouge” . . . like “Venus De Milo,” has few subsequent covers.
May be worth noting that it became “The Queen’s Fancy” in the MJQ’s repertoire – it’s also on The Modern Jazz Society album.
Cohen replies: There is a close harmonic similarity in the A sections of both compositions. The bridges are different. I do not hear the “Rouge” melodic line on either recording of “The Queen’s Fancy.” The latter has the fugue motif and I don’t hear that in the Davis recording of “Rouge.” “The Queen’s Fancy” was an obvious early attempt by Lewis to merge jazz with classical music, an approach that culminated in the Third Stream movement. I don’t get that feeling at all with “Rouge,” although it certainly was a departure from the standard bebop of the time.