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'Round About Midnight (Legacy Edition)

Miles Davis

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Album Review

Miles Davis' entry into the Sony Legacy Edition series features his Columbia Records debut and the first offering from his quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. The label already issued the album in a definitive presentation with four additional tracks taken from the sessions onboard. Musically, the sound on 'Round About Midnight is as unusual and beautiful as it was when it was issued in 1956. Davis, having already spearheaded two changes in jazz — with cool jazz and hard bop — was beginning to move in another direction here that wouldn't be defined for another two years. The title track showcasing his muted trumpet premiered at the Newport Jazz Festival the previous summer (in a sextet with Thelonious Monk on piano) to a thunderous reception, and the studio offering is stunning as well. Charlie Parker's "Au Leu-Cha" is edgy, with deep blues leaping from every chord. Coltrane's solo is notable for its stark contrast to Davis' own: Coltrane chooses an angular tack where he finds the heart of the mode and plays in harmonic counterpoint to the changes but never sounds outside. Cole Porter's "All of You" has Davis quoting from Louis Armstrong's "Basin Street Blues" in his solo. On "Bye-Bye Blackbird" we get to hear the band gel as a unit, beginning with Davis playing through the head, muted and sweet, slightly flatted out until he reaches the chorus and begins his solo on a high note. Garland slips shapes into those interval cracks and shifts them as the rhythm section keeps "soft time." Of the bonus material, the gem is Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae" — Davis and company recorded before the composer could. The band comes out blazing on this set, but it's Coltrane who's the surprise in his quoting various Dizzy Gillespie solos.

For those who had already purchased the album, it may be disconcerting to need to buy it again in order to procure the 33 minutes of live material on disc two. Track one is that legendary Newport sextet performance of "'Round Midnight" with Monk on piano, Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan on tenor and baritone respectively, and a rhythm section of Percy Heath and Connie Kay. The rest is the first recorded gig of the quintet from the Pacific Jazz Festival in February of 1956. This stuff has never been commercially issued before. The short set included here contains the entire concert; the band was on a program schedule with many others. The tunes come largely from the bebop book — "Salt Peanuts," "Woody 'N You," "Walkin'," — and showcases Coltrane and Jones blowing hard and physical. It's in Davis' own playing and that of Garland where the scant traces of the new sound can be heard. Ultimately, despite the spoken introduction by Gene Norman (who introduces Coltrane as "Johnny") and a minute-long exchange with Davis, the music is heated if a bit raw, while the acumen is high and the overall sound is good. What the gig reveals is the literal roots of what was to come. And while it would be great to get the second disc on its own, purchasing the album again with its stellar packaging is a small price to pay.


Born: 26 May 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
Full Bio
'Round About Midnight (Legacy Edition), Miles Davis
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  • $25.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Hard Bop, Bop, Rock, R&B/Soul
  • Released: 18 March 1957

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