Miles Davis: ’Round About Midnight 

The trumpeter's first set for Columbia, provoked by his Newport reading of the title piece, is back with six extra tracks and 28-page booklet


The early 50s were difficult years for Miles Davis but things changed dramatically after his unscheduled appearance at the second Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 with Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk (Jazz Unlimited JUCD 2050). His exploration of ’Round Midnight so impressed the critical fraternity that George Avakian, who was in the audience, immediately offered him an exclusive contract with the Columbia label.

That year Miles had been voted into first place in the trumpet poll by Downbeat readers and this recognition encouraged him to organise his first regular group for club work. He wanted Sonny Rollins, who turned out to be unavailable, so after consulting the rest of the quintet he selected John Coltrane.

The opening six titles here were Miles’ first for Columbia and Avakian insisted that ’Round Midnight be included. The dramatic arrangement is rumoured to be the work of Gil Evans, and Miles sketches out the melody with moody introspection. Each note seems carefully selected for maximum effect before Coltrane makes his stunning entrance.

I was at school when I first bought this album and I still remember being almost overwhelmed by Coltrane’s multi-noted intensity. It was the first time I had been exposed to what Ira Gitler famously called Coltrane’s “sheets of sound”, proving that not all tenors had to sound like Stan Getz or Zoot Sims.

Miles premiered the contrapuntal Ah-Leu-Cha in 1948 with Charlie Parker and it is notable for some explosive punctuations from Philly Joe Jones during the thematic sections. Looking beyond the bop repertoire, Miles also performs All Of You and Bye Bye Blackbird with his signature harmon-mute sound.

The last six tracks are before (1953) and after (1961) bonuses featuring Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Walter Bishop, Wynton Kelly and others. For those with deep pockets, a six CD box-set of the Miles Davis & John Coltrane Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 is available on Columbia/Legacy C6K65833 CD.

(1) ’Round Midnight; Ah-Leu-Cha; All Of You; Bye, Bye, Blackbird; Tadd’s Delight; Dear Old Stockholm; Budo; Sweet Sue, Just You; (2) Dear Old Stockholm; (3) ’Round Midnight; (4) ’Round Midnight; (5) Bye Bye Blackbird (73.37)
Davis (t) with:
(1) John Coltrane (ts); Red Garland (p); Paul Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). NYC, 26 October 1955.
(2) J.J. Johnson (tb); Jackie McLean (as); Gil Coggins (p); Oscar Pettiford (b); Kenny Clarke (d). NYC, 9 May 1952.
(3) as (1) New Jersey, 26 October 1956.
(4) Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins (ts); Walter Bishop Jnr. (p); Percy Heath (b); Jones (d). NYC, 30 January 1953.
(5) Hank Mobley (ts); Wynton Kelly (p); Chambers (b); Cobb (d). San Francisco, 21 April 1961.
20th Century Masterworks 170069