Old/New Albums: Miles Davis’ “‘Round About Midnight”

milesMiles Davis’ “’Round About Midnight” is giving me a run for my money.

What I mean is that without the intricate knowledge of jazz theory and jazz music in general (I know a fair amount, but boy could I know a lot more), it’s difficult to review an album that is completely instrumental, with the main musical thrust being a trumpet, an instrument about which I know next to nothing. It’s harder for me to listen to this album with a critical ear than it was to listen to Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Dave Digs Disney. But let me give it a try.

I liked this album; no real shock there. I greatly enjoy the gamut of Miles Davis’ canon of work, from his early cool jazz phase (Birth Of The Cool) to his modal stuff (Kind Of Blue) to his later, more experimental stuff (In A Silent Way, On The Corner).

This fits right in between cool and modal, in what Wikipedia tells me is hard bop jazz. And I’d say it’s pretty great. The tunes here are not inaccessible by any means; you can hear song structure and melody lines that are the foundation for the solos.

This album actually kind of reminded me of the Roy Hargrove Quintet concert my wife and I saw in Seattle in 2013 with our wonderful Pacific Northwest pals. Just five guys playing good jazz. There isn’t anything off-putting on this album. It’s a nice blend between Miles’ early stuff and his later years; not a glut of notes played so fast you can hardly keep up with the breakneck speed, and not melodic structures that are so out there you can’t hardly tell there is a song happening.

As with all jazz, I’m drawn to clear cut melodies that I can follow with a beginner’s ear. My favorites here reflect that. The reason “Dear Old Stockholm” landed at #1 is that while the melody isn’t quite as dominant as a song like “Ah-Leu-Cha,” the interplay between the piano (melody) and the horns (improvisation) is fantastic. I think my favorite lick comes in the last 20 seconds of the whole song.

Hard bop jazz is great, and this album is a very good example of it. I really enjoyed listening to it and it will definitely go in the rotation of jazz albums to play around the house. It is a good entry point for jazz beginners and a great addition to Miles’ catalog for fans of his music.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. Dear Old Stockholm
  2. Ah-Leu-Cha
  3. Tadd’s Delight
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