Miles Davis| 'Round About Midnight - The Legacy Edition

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Columbia Legacy | 5199572 ****
Davis (t) with John Coltrane (ts), Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b), Philly Joe Jones (d) and on one track Thelonious Monk (p), Percy Heath (b), Connie Kay (d). Rec. 1955-56.

There are "historic reissues" and historic reissues. This one is historic. The reason? Well, although everything on disc one was contained in the fine Miles Davis-John Coltrane Columbia boxed set of a few years back, nothing from disc two has seen the light of day before. Not only that, but all bar one selection from disc two is not even listed in Miles discographies. Juicy enough? Miles Davis| 'Round About Midnight - The Legacy Edition
There are "historic reissues" and historic reissues. This one is historic. The reason? Well, although everything on disc one was contained in the fine Miles Davis-John Coltrane Columbia boxed set of a few years back, nothing from disc two has seen the light of day before. Not only that, but all bar one selection from disc two is not even listed in Miles discographies. Juicy enough?

But first to disc one. The well-known and well-loved ’Round About Midnight LP was Miles’ first for Columbia and came about from music recorded at a handful of sessions in 1955 and 1956. At those sessions four other tunes were given run-downs: ‘Two Bass Hit’, ‘Little Melonae’, ‘Budo’ and ‘Sweet Sue’. Of those, only ‘Sweet Sue’ was released at the time, on a Leonard Bernstein What Is Jazz? LP. The others appeared on various Miles retrospectives over the decades. To have them all on one disc alongside the material cut at the same time and released on Midnight, with no alternative takes to interrupt the flow, is a joy.

Disc two starts with a single performance from the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, the one at which Miles was officially pronounced "rediscovered" (Clifford Brown had made his one appearance at the festival the night before) and where George Avakian took the decision that he wanted Davis to come over to Columbia. Listening to ‘Around Midnight’ one can understand his enthusiasm (Monk is brilliant too). What is not clear is why the rest of the music that group played that day (a ferocious opener, ‘Hackensack’, and ‘Now’s The Time’, which won him a standing ovation) is missing: perhaps because it features Gerry Mulligan and Zoot Sims and therefore dilutes the Miles focus (Mulligan and Sims don’t solo on ‘Midnight’). It would have been more than nice to have it all in one place and with a running time of less than 40 minutes on disc two it was entirely feasible.

The recording comes courtesy of Voice of America. The rest of disc two stems from a 1956 Gene Norman Just Jazz concert in Pasadena. The recording quality is outstandingly good. The band sound wonderfully relaxed and smoothly routined, they play with unerring precision at every tempo and Miles is clearly inspired. Coltrane, still emerging as a fully-rounded individualist, plays with incredible commitment and much more abandon than on the studio dates of the time, Prestige or Columbia. This, remember, is the first ‘live’ recording of the mature Coltrane we have (let’s not drag up the Gillespie and Hodges airshots), let alone of this classic quintet. Gene Norman’s sub-Symphony Sid announcements could have been left off ("on sax we have Johnny Coltrane"), as they do tend to interrupt the flow, but they’re a small irritant in what is after all a major discovery. I hardly need to tell you not to miss this one.