‘Round Midnight is a 1944 jazz standard by pianist Thelonious Monk. Jazz artists Cootie Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Pepper, and Miles Davis have further embellished the song, with songwriter Bernie Hanighen adding lyrics [in 1949]. Both Williams and Hanighen have received co-credits for their contributions.
It is thought that Monk originally composed the song sometime in 1940 or 1941. However, Harry Colomby claims that Monk may have written an early version around 1936 (at the age of 19) with the title “Grand Finale”. “‘Round Midnight” is the most-recorded jazz standard composed by a jazz musician. In allmusic.com it appears in over 1000 albums. The song is also called “‘Round About Midnight”, as Miles Davis used this title for his Columbia Records album Round About Midnight (1957) that included a cover of the song based on Dizzy Gillespie’s interpretation.
The “High Priest of Bebop,” Thelonious Monk, composed the most recorded jazz standard written by a jazz musician, “‘Round Midnight. Even though it is his best-known composition, he was not the first to record it. Charles “Cootie” Williams, long-time trumpeter with the Duke Ellington band, and his orchestra recorded it first in 1944 [I haven’t found this one yet.] and used it as their theme song. In 1946 Dizzy Gillespie made an arrangement for his big band in which he added the introduction and cadenza that have become standard to the song. Monk finally recorded the song in November of 1947 in his first session as leader on the Blue Note Records label, and used an altered version of Gillespie’s introduction in his own recording.
Tempo Jazz Men – Dizzy Gillespie, called “Gabriel” for the trumpet credit on the label, is also credited as the arranger — recorded Electro Broadcast Studios, Glendale, CA, 7 February 1946
Dizzy Gillespie (tp, vo) Lucky Thompson (ts, vo) Milt Jackson (vib, vo) Al Haig (p) Ray Brown (b) Stan Levey (d)
Thelonious Monk — recorded in New York, 21 November 1947
In a jazz.com review of the recording, Alan Kurtz wrote:
Monk’s initial cover of his best-known song came three years after Cootie Williams first recorded it with majestic trumpeting amid a big band and with nary a hint of bebop. Yet as Monk shows, a small group better befits “‘Round Midnight.” Using trumpet and sax to help establish haunting atmospherics, Monk carries the melody by himself (except for a 5-note phrase strikingly harmonized between piano and alto) and is the sole soloist. Listeners sometimes mistake Monk’s deliberate fractures — by 1947 fully developed both instrumentally and compositionally — as mistakes or hesitation; they are neither. They’re the probings of a visionary sculptor radically reshaping modern jazz.
In 1949 Bernie Hanighen added lyrics to “‘Round Midnight” and singer Jackie Paris made the first vocal recording. Although nearly unknown to jazz fans today, in the 1950s and 1960s Paris was well respected by other musicians as an uncompromising jazz artist who hadn’t sold out to pop music. He was bassist Charles Mingus’ favorite vocalist, for whom Mingus wrote several songs, and he was the only singer to travel with the Charley Parker Quintet.
Miles Davis — recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival, 17 July 1955
According to jazzdisco.org, the group performing this song at Newport in 1955 consisted of the following sextet: Miles Davis (trumpet) Zoot Sims (tenor saxophone) Gerry Mulligan (baritone saxophone) Thelonious Monk (piano) Percy Heath (bass) Connie Kay (drums). However, the video provider credits only four musicians: Miles Davis (t), Thelonious Monk (p), Percy Heath (b), Connie Kay (d).
Miles Davis Quintet – recorded on 26 October, 1955; 5 June and 10 September, 1956, 30th Street Studios, New York, NY; issued in 1956 on the LP ‘Round About Midnight
- Miles Davis – trumpet
- John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
- Red Garland – piano
- Paul Chambers – bass
- Philly Joe Jones – drums
At the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, Davis performed the song “‘Round Midnight” as part of an all-star jam session, with the song’s composer Thelonious Monk, along with Connie Kay and Percy Heath of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Zoot Sims, and Gerry Mulligan. Davis’s solo received an extremely positive reception from many jazz fans, and critics. It was viewed as a significant comeback and indication of a healthy, drug-free Miles (he had in fact been free from heroin addiction for well over a year). Miles’s response to this performance was typically laconic: “What are they talking about? I just played the way I always play.” George Avakian of Columbia Records was in the audience, and his brother Aram persuaded him that he ought to sign Davis to the label. Davis was eventually signed to Columbia Records, and was able to form his famous “first great quintet” with John Coltrane on saxophone. ‘Round About Midnight was to be his first album for his new label.
Kenny Dorham – from ‘Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia, recorded at Cafe Bohemia, New York, NY, 31 May 1956 — Kenny Dorham (trumpet); Kenny Burrell (guitar); J.R. Monterose (tenor saxophone); Bobby Timmons (piano); Sam Jones (bass); Arthur Edgehill (drums)
Jimmy Smith (org)
Eddie McFadden (g)
Donald Bailey (ds)
Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk – the first track on Mulligan Meets Monk, 1957
Michel Legrand and His Orchestra – from the album Legrand Jazz,; album recorded June 25, 1958 – June 30, 1958, according to the AllMusic review
Paul Chambers: bass
Michel Legrand: conductor, arranger
Kenny Dennis: drums
Barry Galbraith: guitar
Betty Glamann: harp
Bill Evans: piano
Phil Woods: alto sax
Jerome Richardson: baritone sax, bass clarinet
John Coltrane: tenor sax
Miles Davis: trumpet
Art Pepper with the Marty Paich Orchestra — from Art Pepper + Eleven, recorded on 14 March 1959 (acc. to Jazz.com and Jazzdisco.org, while Wikipedia says 12 March)
Pete Candoli, Jack Sheldon (tp), Dick Nash (tb), Bob Enevoldsen (vtb, ts),Vince DeRosa (frh), Herb Geller (as), Art Pepper (as, ts, cl), Bill Perkins (ts), Med Flory (bars), Russ Freeman (p), Joe Mondragon (b), Mel Lewis (d), Marty Paich (arr, cond)
Grant Green – from Green Street, recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on 1 April 1961 — Grant Green (guitar), Ben Tucker (bass), Dave Bailey (drums)
Thelonious Monk Quartet – live in Germany, 1963; followed by “Blue Monk” and “Criss Cross”
Thelonious Monk – Piano
Charlie Rouse – Saxophone
John Oss – Bass
Frankie Dunlop – Drums
Betty Carter – from the 1963 album ‘Round Midnight, (US) Atco Records 33-152
Wes Montgomery – 1965
Dexter Gordon – Recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York City on 11 and 12 December, 1976; released in 1977 on the album Homecoming – Live at the Village Vanguard
Hank Jones / The Great Jazz Trio – live at Blue Note, Tokyo, 5 March 2006