Turning Bird-worship into the Birth of the Cool was an amazing knight’s move and one Miles would keep making, in one way or another, for the next forty years. Ralph Ellison identified this restlessness as in part a refusal to play to the crowd, noting how both Bird and Miles “struggled. . .to escape the entertainer’s role.” Parker, Powell, and Monk’s way of being artists (rather than background music for a cocktail party) was to write intricate bebop licks that sounded like the preceding era’s dance bands cut up and stuck back together at severe angles; but from Birth of the Cool onward Miles’s way was to play by implication, to elide and subtract, to move elliptically in and out of song structure, and, above all, to shift styles from record to record.
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