Given Legacy's ongoing efforts to package and reissue thirty years' worth of Miles Davis material, one has to wonder at the audacity of its latest addition to seemingly endless variations on his extensive catalogue, the Legacy Edition of 'Round About Midnight. Certainly the material on disc onewhich includes Miles' entire '57 debut for the label, along with four bonus tracks readily available on both the '00 six-CD box, Miles Davis and John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961, and the '01 single title reissuewill provide no discoveries for those who have heard either release.
Even the first track on disc twoa live rendition of "'Round Midnight from a '55 Newport performance by Miles and an all-star band featuring saxophonists Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan, pianist Thelonious Monk, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kayis already available, albeit only on the three-CD compilation, Happy Birthday Newport. But what makes this new release unequivocally worth hearing is the thirty-minute performance by Miles' quintetfeaturing saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jonesfrom a '56 Pasadena concert four months prior to the group beginning the recording of the original album.
Little needs to be said about this quintet. It provided Coltrane's first major exposure, and while he would ultimately move on to greater extremes, the basic elements were already emerging during his time with Miles, most specifically a vivid sense of invention and endless variation that would evolve exponentially in the coming decade. Garland's block-chord accompaniment and lyrical phrasing would influence a whole generation of pianists. Chambers and Jones were like conjoined twins linked at both the head and heart, with an ability to define groove and swing at any tempo.
And Miles, who in his early years had been criticized for less prodigious technique than Dizzy Gillespie or Clifford Brown, was already demonstrating the powerful midrange tone and fragile vulnerability with a mute that would become his trademark for the next 35 years. The original 'Round About Midnight was an auspicious harbinger of a thirty-year relationship with Columbia Records that would be defined by restless searching and intrepid imagination.
If disc one offers nothing new to the seasoned fan, the Pasadena performance is something else entirely. The depth and breadth of the group is immediate and clear with only thirty minutes to represent the quintetfrom the up-tempo burn of "Chance It to the slower but unassailable swing of "Walkin', which would be reinvented as a faster-paced tune in later years, and the tender ballad "It Never Entered My Mind, which demonstrated Miles' ability to turn a simple pop tune into a thing of tender beauty.
If you haven't already heard the '00 box set or '01 single release of 'Round About Midnight, this is clearly the definitive version of the recording, a chance to witness the power and sensitivity of Miles' first quintet at its live best.
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Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Red Garland: piano; Paul Chambers:
bass; Philly Joe Jones: drums. On Disc Two, track 1: Miles Davis: trumpet; Zoot Sims: tenor
saxophone; Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone; Thelonious Monk: piano; Percy Heath:
bass; Connie Kay: drums.