Miles Davis Round About Midnight (1956)

Track 1: Round About Midnight

Track 2: Dear Old Stockholm


Miles Davis (tp) John Coltrane (ts) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) arr Gil Evans / Teo Macero,  recorded at Columbia Studio D, NYC, October 26, 1955, Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC, June 5 & September 10, 1956


The original Miles Davis Quintet with the young everybody, widely recognized by jazz critics as a landmark album in hard bop and one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. Round about Midnight was Miles debut album for Columbia, being under contract to Prestige. The young Coltrane can be heard can be heard reaching for the “sheets of sound” that would emerge in the following years.

Vinyl:  Philips BBL 7140 UK original release of Columbia CL949

Lovely moody photo of Miles on the cover, though the leading apostrophe in “round” is missing. Remedial class.

At around 240 gram, it is the heaviest record I own, yet despite its heavyweight, characteristically quiet. Philips in these early days often require 10-15% push up in volume to sound right. The record is a little crackly, but in quite a charming way in keeping with its age, like an old photograph yellowed with age, with dog-eared corners.

Around the spindle hole you see the legend R/T, which was the UK Purchase Tax category at that period prior to the introduction of the ubiquitous VAT – Value Added Tax – which like most government schemes uses a name or description which is the opposite of what it says it is.VAT is a tax on purchases which subtracts value by increasing the price, but they would prefer you to think they are doing you a favour, adding value.

Patrician advice organisations pointing out the obvious to the ill-informed public, Philips (bottom left corner) recommend  you store this record in an upright position with the back pointing in the direction of the arrow, facing the back of the cabinet. Best played while sipping a cup of tea, which in polite circles should be held level with the thumb and index finger through the handle and the smallest finger – the pinkie –  pointing outwards.

Collectors Corner

Sitting in the shelf of a London suburban record store specialising in Sixties rock and pop, the staple diet of all second-hand vinyl stores. If it wasn’t for the appetite for Sixties rock and pop most of these stores would be gone, and the jazz shelf with them. Though eBay is the true ultimate market place it has all the accompanying anxieties of trust in sellers descriptions, the vagaries of post and packing, and the vertiginous price when Moscow and Tokyo take an interest. Nothing quite like holding the record and judging for yourself the condition of the vinyl. Surface noise yes, but no serious scratches, and a nice historical artefact fifty-six years old.

Records are the new antiques, with the added bonus you can play them – bit like using a Ming vase for its original purpose, to display a bunch of Spring daffodils or a bouquet of Summer roses.

Postscript – thanks to a prod from Jan and Justin below I checked the Popsike provenance. Just as well I did. The US Columbia (six eye) is indeed red, whilst the British is blue. Worse, the British is extremely rare and sold last September for a remarkable sum:

Ooops. Call the cops, there has been a robbery. No need for the cuffs; I’ll come quietly.

Central Criminal Court Case: US vs UK cover

Simon says the British cover has dodgy retouching, an offence against Section One of the  Unnecessary Retouching of Cover Art Act, Sub-section Two, Musical Instruments; Paragraph Three, Brass and Woodwind.

Call peoples Exhibit One, the covers.

Crikey! There is a whole new trumpet grafted on. And the producers girfriend, commissioned to bend the record title on a wavy line,  in the process has lost the leading apostrophe present in the original word ” (a)round”, leading to confusion between an approximation of the time twelve o’clock in the evening and a road traffic management arrangement, a “round about” , a criminal typographical error.

The Prosecution rests.


28 thoughts on “Miles Davis Round About Midnight (1956)

  1. I realise this is an old post now, but just wanted to share that I picked up this rare UK press. Sounds fantastic and I got it at a steal from the looks of it. Any idea of pressing numbers for this Philips one? Assuming its relatively low, hense the high price and scarcity.

    • Crikey, 2012 post, that puts me back in short trousers!

      Pressing numbers for a UK jazz reissue US LP in 1956? We know from Blue Note typically around 800 to a couple of thousand, in a market five times the size of the UK. Jazz had a relatively small UK following. Miles was a big artist but mostly unknown outside the cognoscenti . If it is indicative, sales of Tempo albums (Tubby Hayes lamented) around the same time were reputedly maybe 500 to 1,000. . Survival rate in collectable quality today, perhaps a quarter?

      It is interesting to speculate about scarcity, because no-one really knows. My guess would be a few hundred exist today in collectable condition.

      Its value of course depends on how many people want a physical vinyl copy, and that might be very few. The Spotify/Deezer/YouTube generation can have everything for nothing, but they will never know what it really sounds like. You did well in finding it. Is looking in skips the new crate-digging?

  2. Did anyone notice that this famous cover is, in fact, a mirror image? There are no trumpets designed for left-handed people, nor was Miles left-handed. I wonder why they didn’t take the original image, which would have looked just as good. In a way, it reminds me of another, very rare, record – the Metronome pressing of Humphrey Lyttelton’s “Blues In The Night”:

    Looks weird, doesn’t it?

    • No left-handed trumpets, we can’t play, it’s not fair!? Hendrix played the guitar left handed and upside down. Django Reinhardt had only three fingers. Beethoven was deaf. Those whining left-handers are full of a bunch of excuses. Instead of getting on and playing trumpet with the right hand like everyone else, they play the grievance card. It don’t sound as good.

      (You’re not a sinistral yourself are you, Eduard? It’s just an unusual thing to notice, I would never have)

      • I am not a sinistral myself, no. Nor has my purpose ever been a sinister one, even. My attention was drawn to this phenomenon when I saw a similar photo on a book in my collection, obviously done seconds within the “Midnight” image:

        This time with Miles in correct position.

        • Tongue firmly planted in cheek, EL!

          Serious point though, with an interest in graphic design, to my eye this “right way around ” picture commits the design sin of leading the eye out of the picture, in a letter “Z” movement starting top left, ending at the bottom right , falling out of the picture. With nowhere to go, the eye can only retrace its steps, focus on his glum chin on hand, or lose interest,

          Maintaining eye movement within the frame is the hallmark of successful graphic design. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

          • Very true. Part of the problem is they didn’t put Miles in an upright position as they did on the LP cover. But even if you mirror the LP cover image, it doesn’t look “right”. Just for a hair-splitting exercise: Is it just because we have grown accustomed to it? Or does the left/right problem matter when it comes to graphic design? It has been said that in landscapes drawn by children, it does matter whether they put the sun (moon) either left or right, thus revealing their own state of mind.

    • the Miles Davis quintet recording for U.S. Columbia was issued in Europe by the national Philips companies (U.K., Holland, France and Germany.) The U.K. cover was inspired by the U.S. version. The Dutch and the French made different, alternative original art work, each with a picture of Miles. If you type in “Miles Davis Philips” on the CollectorsFrenzy site, you will find many copies of the Dutch version (no photo crédits) and at least one of the French quintette (credit JP Leloir). I never saw the German version. Anyone ? (Kees?)

  3. I’ve been lucky on with the UK edition and I don’t dare to tell the price. Such a bargain. As you said before it is a vinyl heavyweight with 250 grams. Just got one record with more weight. Nevertheless the cover is surprisingly thin.

  4. I have Phillips UK pressing of Round About Midnight condition of cover as picture,vinyl excellent.Ebay seller says he has only seen one other so mine makes 3. Must be others!

  5. Just received my Record Store Day 2013 mono special edition of this on 180 gram vinyl blah blah – ironically bought from Amazon for £14.50 through a German outfit. I think It was mastered by the Sony Legacy people (possibly from high res digital files but I’m not sure really).The pressing was done by Music on Vinyl in Europe. Anyway it sounds very lovely indeed. It is better than the original 6-eye? I don’t know because I don’t have the 6-eye but it would be nice to compare. At any rate for the money I am most pleased. I also have Someday my Prince and Milestones in the post.

  6. yeah, that trumpet is totally photoshopped…

    Actually the curved typeface sits nicely on Miles’ head. Round Miles.

  7. Superb album. On CD over here, as in most cases. I bought ‘Round About Midnight after I bought Davis’ volumes 1 and 2 on Blue Note, which also features a rendition of Dear Old Stockholm and I prefer that one over the version on ‘Round About Midnight.

    The fiddling around with the various covers makes for an interesting read. Imagine that: a whole new trumpet on top of the old one without PhotoShop… 😉

  8. Nice one. I have a 1st pressing Stereo Copy on Columbia with the red cover – very very good (even in “Stereo”)

  9. The cover is a European adaptation, complete with rather dodgy (but quite charming) “touching up” on the trumpet. One of my favourite Miles albums.

  10. This is indeed a great record and great cover art.
    The dutch Philips pressing shows another great picture of miles. You can find it on posike if you search for Miles davis and Philips. The Dutch pressing seems to be more common. I had the opportunity to pick up a nice copy for little money on ebay.

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