This seminal masterpiece was the very first album Miles Davis had recorded for Columbia. It was recorded in 1957 by Miles with his first classic Quintet consisting of John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Billy Joe Jones, one of the greatest bands to ever play jazz. This was the same quintet that had just recorded the classic Prestige albums Cookin', Workin', Steamin', and Relaxin'. Round About Midnight was recorded at the same time as the sessions that produced the four Prestige classics, as the labels had made special arrangements that allowed the group to record for both. However, Columbia had a different approach to recording jazz than Prestige, which is the main reason Round About midnight is a more refined album than its Prestige predecessors. Unlike Prestige's budget-light way of recording albums in single takes, Columbia took multiple takes until the tune was rendered just right.
This made the quintessential hard bop album. The title track is the definitive and most famous version of the classic Monk composition, which has 2508 recorded versions listed on AMG. Miles based his arrangement on Dizzy Gillespie's version of the rune. This masterful interpretation shifts seamlessly from sleepy to poignant, from moody to swinging, and shows to the full extent what jazz improvisation is all about and how a standard could (and should, otherwise what's the point?) be seen and re-presented in a completely unique light by the right interpreter. The rest of the tracks are equally as strong; all golden jazz standards that Miles made his own, this album is a joy from start to finish. If you own the Columbia remaster you also get four excellent outtakes including a reworking of Budo (A Miles original tune off Birth of the Cool).
Musicianship is stellar and inspired. Due to Columbia's approach of multiple takes everything is refined to perfection, but the raw atmosphere of the Prestige sessions is not gone (Unlike the second great Quintet albums, which can sound a bit clinical). The musicians are tight as a group after working and recording together for years. Coltrane is at the peak of his bop-period powers. Soon after he quit due to his worsening heroin addiction, then recovered and returned to playing with Thelonious Monk's group and went on to record Kind of Blue and many more classics that made him one of the most innovative and influential musicians of all time. Here his playing is still very much in the traditional bop realm.
Overall, this is an absolute classic of American music and essential for those interested in jazz. This is Miles' finest hard bop album and along with Kind of Blue and Birth of the Cool, his most significant record of the pre-fusion era. Recommended to fans of great music.