'Birth of the Cool'

A surfeit of coolness

'Birth of the Cool'

Given the torch our town carries for retro/vintage fashion and design, not to mention the way the whole country's mad about Mad Men right now, an exhibition like "Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury" is as natural a fit for Austin as your backside in an Eames chair. Maybe that's why more than a dozen local shops, clubs, and cultural groups have signed on with the Blanton Museum of Art for its three-month run of this toast to Fifties and Sixties "cool culture" assembled by the Orange County Museum of Art. While the Blanton shows 200-plus objets de cool in art, architecture, graphics, design, cinema, and music, its exhibition partners will be serving a smorgasbord of screenings, live jazz performances, tours, talks, and discounts on music, merchandise, edibles, and libations.

This weekend, for example, you can catch a night of jazz that pays tribute to the recording from which the exhibition takes its name: Miles Davis' landmark 1957 LP, Birth of the Cool. Trumpeter Jeff Lofton, who blows a pretty frosty horn himself, leads the show, which covers Miles' 1950s output in three sets. Sharing the stage with Lofton at the Elephant Room, 315 Congress, will be saxophonist Russell Haight, pianist Rich Harney, bass player Mark Nelms, and drummer Masumi Jones. The show is Saturday, Feb. 28, 9:30pm. Three other "Birth of the Cool" jazz nights at the Elephant Room will follow: Kat Edmondson (March 28), Ephraim Owens (April 18), and Pamela Hart (May 16).

And that's just the beginning. For a full schedule of events, visit the Blanton website, www.blantonmuseum.org. "Birth of the Cool" continues through May 17.

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The Blanton's 'Birth of the Cool' is midcentury modernism made sexy

Robert Faires, March 13, 2009

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Birth of the Cool, Blanton Museum of Art, Mad Men, Jeff Lofton, Rich Harney, Russell Haight, Masumi Jones, Mark Nelms

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