'Round About Midnight
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6
Written by John Metzger
By the time that Miles Davis issued his debut for Columbia Records in 1957, he already had altered the course of jazz. Still, the album íRound About Midnight was something altogether different, something for which the jazz world wasnít prepared. For starters, Davis, whose career had taken a remarkably promising turn with the groundbreaking release of Birth of the Cool, nearly had succumbed to his addiction to heroin, and as a result, his forward momentum had begun to falter. It was only after Columbia A&R representative George Avakian saw Davis perform a breathtaking set with Thelonious Monk at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival that he was convinced that the trumpeterís potential hadnít been squandered.
What followed was a fruitful relationship that lasted for three decades, and in that time, Davis never failed to find surprising new spaces to explore with his music. Indeed, íRound About Midnight was merely the beginning. Featuring what is commonly referred to as Davisí first classic quintet, the set highlights the full scope of his vision while hinting at the level of sheer perfection that he would achieve just a few years later on Kind of Blue. Make no mistake, however, íRound About Midnight is a masterpiece in its own right. As with most of Davisí work, there is an easy-going effortlessness to the music he and his band concocted. Pushed along by a stellar supporting cast ó which included drummer "Philly Joe" Jones, bass player Paul Chambers, pianist Red Garland, and a soon-to-be-legendary saxophone player named John Coltrane ó Davis sounded more self-assured and confident than ever. Tackling material that had wide-ranging appeal ó the pop standard Bye Bye Blackbird; the Charlie Parker-penned, bebop nugget Ah-Leu-Cha; and the Swedish folk tune Dear Old Stockholm, among them ó the collective unveiled a series of textures that shifted from the grand, blue-toned eloquence of íRound Midnight to the sprightly weightlessness of Taddís Delight to the rapidly developing Coltrane-Davis duality, which emerged in full-force on Cole Porterís All of You.
Recently repackaged, íRound About Midnight: Legacy Edition concludes the first of its two discs with a quartet of previously issued bonus cuts that were culled from the same sessions: the energetic Two Bass Hit, the exploratory refrains of Little Melonae, a punchy re-working of Budo, and a brief but probing examination of Sweet Sue, Just You. More importantly, however, the new collection includes Davisí now-fabled performance of íRound Midnight at the1955 Newport Jazz Festival while also unveiling an additional 30-minutes worth of material that was captured in February 1956. This latter portion represents the first-ever, commercially-available concert recording by this rendition of Davisí band, and it immediately is striking as to how quickly his first classic quintet had coalesced. In particular, Walkiní ó which is delivered at a relaxed stroll, especially in comparison with the frenzied version on Four & More ó highlights the individual personalities of the musicians and provides an outstanding example of the groupís evolving, interactive dialogue. Elsewhere, Woody íN You flows breezily, while the muted trumpet solo and gentle piano of It Never Entered My Mind are positively resplendent. Just a few weeks later, Davisí disbanded his group temporarily, but the foundation of his future forays undoubtedly was cemented forever within the framework of íRound About Midnight.
íRound About Midnight [Original Album] ó
Bonus Materials ó
'Round About Midnight: Legacy Edition ó
'Round About Midnight: Legacy Edition is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box