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Through the years The Blue Devils have showcased a panorama of jazz influenced music. It was inevitable that this musical journey would lead to an era immersed in style...an era defined by the marriage of the cerebral to the romantic. Playful curiosity, a need to experiment, and defiance of convention gave birth to the "cool" movement. The results were heard and seen and felt in every genre: literature and painting and film and dance, and of course, music. The 2003 Blue Devils exhibit the influence of this powerful era, an era that continues to define a state of mind, through their latest production, "The Phenomenon of Cool - Unsquare Dances."

At the close of the 1940s, cool jazz was an overtly modernist music with radical implications. In the 1950s, nonconformity became a defining sensibility in the arts. Defiance of convention and an unwavering stance of individuality became the hallmark of cool. The abstract expressionists already reigned in the art world and the Beats were rewriting the rules of literature. What was important was the space between the paint and the canvas, the flow of the journey, the action of the experience itself. In music, the lone jazzman on a darkened and smoky stage came to symbolize the essence of cool. He knew that cool lived in the pauses that hung between the high notes.

The 2003 Blue Devils will generate the "cool" state of mind through a multifaceted, wide ranging soundtrack, embracing the contemporary with music that acknowledges the simmering, volatile edge of cool's foundation. The uncompromising nature of Dave Brubeck's piano work is deconstructed and reconstructed for a frenzy of musical ferocity in "A Brubeck Fantasy." Brubeck's thick harmonies and strident rhythms are revisited from every angle, offering a momentous occasion of the "cool" objective.

The cool aesthetic of Miles Davis propels the second production "Sketches." Miles Davis came to personify the cool jazz movement. "His demeanor and his music were one in this regard, both reflecting the enigmatic mixture of aloofness and emotional immediacy." (History of Jazz, Ted Gioia.) In the true spirit of exploration, an exchange between vocal and instrumental music in this production pays homage to the beatniks and the infamous coffee houses of the time.

The final production creates a collage of quotes from legendary artists of the "cool" state of mind. The contemporary "Joe's Last Mix" transforms the electronic to acoustic as a foundation for this musical conversation. From Mingus to a Bernstein medley, the essence of cool's foundation is centered elusively outside the mainstream, yet appeals to the individualist in all of us. Images of cool subtly emerge -- James Dean, Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollack, Billie Holiday, and Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face." Each an individualist. They bucked authority. They lived outside the mainstream. They endured and they challenged. And sometimes they won. But they were always…."cool."

As they travel from California to the Pacific Northwest, through the Midwest to the South, the Blue Devils invite you to join them in a celebration of a state of mind. A state of being.......Cool.


Attempting to capture cool is a trap. It's inherently elusive. Tracking its evolution, however, allows you to train the 20/20 clarity of hindsight onto the matter. With enough time and distance, cool has emerged as a series of movements, an unwavering stance of individuality, and more recently a flash of red-hot radiation.

Cool is like art: You know it when you see it. Cool mirrors the times. Some say it was born after World War II, forged by the heated pressure of technological change. When things cooled down, it was less about the speed of sound than the sound of speed. It was about poise, not pose. The jazzman of the early Fifties, a lone figure on a darkened and smoky stage, came to symbolize the first blush of cool.

The abstract expressionist already reigned in the art world, and the beats were rewriting the rules of literature. What was important was the space between the paint and the canvas, the flow of the journey, the action of experience itself. Like the rest in a musical refrain, cool lived in the pauses that hung between high notes.

An undertone of opposition cemented cool's foundation. Rebellion simmered. Cool was outside the mainstream. It was off-center, unexpected, and on an angle. It developed a volatile edge.

The astronaut was the ultimate Lone Man, propelled by fire into cold space. His mantra was "cool under pressure" Other taciturn heroes, dangerously contained, had long been poster boys for cool: the Cowboy, the Outlaw, the Leader, the Last Honest Man. They bucked authority. They endured. Sometimes they won.


More from 2003...