This track [AKA “‘Round ‘Bout Midnight”] is among Thelonious Monk’s best known works and likewise has become a highly revered and time honoured jazz standard. The composition is a key entry in Monk’s original repertoire, establishing itself relatively early on the Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1 (1948) -- his first sides as a bandleader. He would likewise continue to perform the song -- both as a solo and in the context of a combo -- for the remainder of his career. This has yielded literally scores of available interpretations by the artist. “‘Round Midnight”’s lilting melody is steeped in a noir melancholia that can be traced through other early Monk ballads -- such as “Pannonica” and “Crepuscule With Nellie”. Rather than clutter up the arrangement with drastically off-kilter chord progressions, the actual tune is structurally open to a wide variety of interpretations. All of Monk’s takes feature variations on his trademark drop-dead sense of timing and dramatic piano inflections. The 20+ minute rehearsal recording -- included as a bonus on the CD reissue of Thelonious Himself (1958) -- reveal “‘Round Midnight”’s layers of complexity as Monk attempts several novel approaches to the arrangement. There are hundreds of cover versions of the song in practically every musical genre. Among the most disparate are renderings by Canadian blues combo Big Sugar -- on their self-titled 1992 debut -- as well as famed cinematic writer, arranger and conductor Henry Mancini, whose haunting rendition is available on Mancini ‘67.
“‘Round Midnight” is one of the few Monk compositions to also have accompanying lyrics, courtesy of Bernie Hanigen. A plethora of pop and jazz artists have interpreted it -- ranging from first ladies of jazz Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald to an all-star ensemble led by vocalist Bobby McFerrin for the title track of the 1986 film starring Dexter Gordon.