In the days when commercial television networks in the United States were still working their way toward the shallowness we know and love today and cable networks did not exist, there was an NBC-TV program called The Subject Is Jazz. Its host was the cultural critic Gilbert Seldes. One 1958 installment of the series explored the proposition that a fairly new tributary of the jazz mainstream ran cooler than the jazz that preceded it. The musicians were Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Warne Marsh, tenor saxophone; Don Elliott, trumpet, mellophone and vibes; Billy Taylor, piano; Mundell Lowe, guitar; Eddie Safranski, bass; and Ed Thigpen, drums.
This investigation with examples is valuable enough that Rifftides is going to bring you the whole thing. You’ve had enough football this weekend anyway. It is necessary to post it in sections, which is how it is available. Here is part 1.
In the second part of the program, Seldes again quotes Andre Hodeir on the nature of cool, introduces Konitz and Marsh playing hot in “Subconscious-Lee,” and interrogates Konitz, who is forthcoming and, bless him, amused by the idea of pigeon-holing art.
Was there a difference between approaches to justify the claim that there was a cool school? According to Billy Taylor there was. He explained and demonstrated it to Seldes with the articulateness that in following decades viewers of CBS Sunday Morning came to know well.
Bret Primack, the jazz video guy, deserves great credit for posting those segments on YouTube. Gilbert Seldes’ book The Public Arts, published in 1956, is still a great, stimulating read. Seldes died in 1970.