Round About Midnight
1. ‘Round Midnight (5:52)
(Hanighen – C. Williams – T. Monk)
2. Ah-Leu-Cha (5:49)
3. All Of You (6:58)
4. Bye Bye Blackbird (7:53)
(M. Dixon – R. Henderson)
5. Tadd’s Delight (4:26)
6. Dear Old Stockholm (7:49)
Produced by George Avakian
John Coltrane – Tenor Sax
William “Red” Garland – Piano
Paul Chambers – Bass
“Philly Joe” Jones – Drums
This album marks the debut of Miles Davis on Columbia, except for his interpretation of “Sweet Sue” on Leonard Bernstein’s lecture-demonstration record, What Is Jazz. Appropriately, it is by the Miles Davis Quintet, which was organized in 1955 and is now in its second year as a permanent unit. It is also one of the most popular groups in the jazz field today, as its personal appearances from coast to coast attest.
Miles himself has gradually emerged as one of the great figures of the modern jazz scene. His first years in the jazz scene found him greatly overshadowed by Dizzy Gillespie, although his playing – while obviously influenced by Gillespie – actually did not resemble closely that of the older exponent of modern jazz trumpet. More recently, Miles has acquired further polish and sureness, and also a wider public, to the point where he now places first among trumpet players in the those jazz polls which are not one by Dizzy Gillespie.
His playing is characterized by both the nervous, jagged lines of the bop school and the pensive relaxation of the cool period that followed. The latter quality dominates in Miles’ playing, and to such a degree that it tempers the surface excitement of his playing in fast tempo; Miles seldom produces the familiar sound of frantic exasperation to exploit the emotions of his listeners, but rather seeks to achieve response through the inner tension of his improvisations. The paradox of tension produced by an outwardly relaxed style is an achievement first developed in its highest form by Lester Young, and has been brought to new heights for the trumpet by Miles.
The Davis tone – soft, rich, intimate in its breathy warmth- is one of his most immediately recognizable characteristics. In recent years, Miles has also chosen to exploit the sound of the muted trumpet, blown softly but very close to a microphone. Both in clubs and in these records, he has achieved a personalized sound though his technique. His open horn is still the trademark by which his fans know him, and it has earned him an audience ranging from youngsters new to the jazz world to old-time fans who find in his sound a recollection of the great Joe Smith, who was sharing solos with young Louis Armstrong in Fletcher Henderson’s band before Miles was born.
Miles, who comes from Alton, Illinois, learned to play trumpet in and around St. Louis. His first idol was Roy Eldridge. When Billy Eckstine’s band came through town, Miles met Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie was taken by the quiet youngster and let him sit in with the band. In 1945, at the age of 19, Miles left home to study at the Julliard School in New York, where he acquired a foundation in harmony and theory. Dizzy advised him to study piano, so that he could play variant chords for himself; this led Miles to a solider, faster, and more confident understanding of what a soloist could and could not play above such harmonies.
Miles was quickly accepted into the group of musicians centered around Gillespie and especially Parker, with whom he made his first recordings. He played with many small New York groups, and even joined Eckstine for a while. Encouraged by his Julliard studies, Miles embarked briefly on a medium-sized band venture which was a great success musically but one of the grandest failures the jazz nightclub scene has ever known. It was a frankly experimental group, with some of the most unusual arrangements ever offered by a jazz band up to that time, and its brass section was augmented by a French horn and tuba. In order to eat, Miles went back to working with Parker and others on 52nd Street, which was then in its last stage before the complete taking over by strip-teasers. (Today, only “Jimmy Ryan’s,” second only to Greenwich Village’s “Nick’s” as the oldest home of Dixieland in New York, continues to offer jazz.)
Illness forced Miles into a physical and musical decline for a time, but he came back strong in 1954 and has since proven himself a greater musician than ever. His present  quintet serves as his full-time showcase, and as these records attest, it is one of the best post-bop jazz groups in the country today.
With Miles are three Philadelphians and a young bassist from Detroit. Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane is something of a personal find of Miles’; although he broke into the business as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1949, it has been through Miles that he has achieved acceptance as a solo performer. Pianist Red Garland is also a kind of Miles Davis protégé, and shares with Miles a keen interest in boxing; as a matter of fact. Red was once a good enough welterweight to have had the privilege of losing to Sugar Ray Robinson on the latter’s way to the championship. (It was no disgrace; Robinson did not lose a bout for more than ten years during that period of his career.)
Drummer Joe Jones is one of the Roach-Blakey school of “hard” percussionists; he is also known as “Philly Joe” Jones so as to avoid confusion with Jonathan “Jo” Jones, the ex-Basie drummer. Paul Chambers, who got into the big time with the J.J. Johnson-Kai Winding Quintet, has already established himself as one of the best young bass players to come along in recent years.
The recordings in this collection are representative of the Miles Davis repertoire in recent years. “Round Midnight,” written by pianist Thelonious Monk with embellishments by ex-Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams, has become something of a modern jazz classic since first Williams and then Gillespie recorded it more than a decade ago. It is also the piece which Miles played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 with such effect that it started people asking each other where Miles had been lately. (It turned out he had been around, but nobody had been listening.) Its reflective changes are a perfect vehicle for Miles’ bluest mood, and it bids fair to acquire permanent association with him in the jazz literature.
“Ah-Leu-Cha” harkens back to Miles’ early association with Charlie Parker in New York. It has a strange quality of counterpoint; the arranged beginning and ending sound like Dixieland in the bop vein. (Parker’s compositions frequently employed this kind of counterpoint; “Chasing The Bird,” recorded by the J.J. Johnson Quintet, is another example.)
What Miles can do with a lovely pop tune is amply shown in the easy, relaxed, two-beat interpretation of Cole Porter’s show tune, “All Of You.” Much the same feeling holds in the ancient standard “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Some of Miles’ fans expressed shock when he first played old pop hits like this – or even new ones like “All Of You” – but this disturbs Miles not the slightest. He finds them ideal themes for his horn and his group, and that’s all he wants to know.
“Tadd’s Delight” recalls still another association of the forties; Tadd Dameron is by now the elder stateman among the composer-arrangers of the bebop period, and was one of the first to bring a technical background (he had studied the Schillinger System of composition and arranging) to the new school of jazz.
“Dear Old Stockholm” is a Swedish folk tune whose nostalgic quality lends itself ideally to Miles’ muted style. The unusual construction of this piece, with its many breaks, gives it a feeling which is a combination of sentiment and the quality best described as misterioso. Paul Chambers’ long bass solo, placed early in the interpretation, adds to the sensation of strangeness that pervades this moving performance.
- George Avakian (1955)
Liner notes taken from original analog release.
Produced by George Avakian
Digital Master prepared by Teo Macero
Engineered by Ray Moore
Recorded October 27, 1955 at the Columbia 799 Seventh Avenue Studio and June 5, 1956 and September 10, 1956 at the Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York City.
Columbia Records is proud to present the legends who created the uniquely American art form called "jazz." Throughout the development of jazz, Columbia has recorded performances of the greatest jazz artists. Now these important recordings can be experienced as never before, through the exciting Columbia Jazz Masterpieces series.
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There are 20 titles available right now, and in coming months there will be landmark works and new compilations by Thelonious Monk, Sarah Vaughan, Coleman Hawkins, and many other giants – keeping the history of jazz alive for all time.
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