"'Round Midnight" (sometimes "'Round About Midnight") is a 1944 jazz standard by pianist Thelonious Monk. A version recorded by Monk's quintet was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1993. It is the most recorded jazz standard composed by a jazz musician.
Composition and Monk's first recording
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". Monk first recorded the song on the 1947 Blue Note album Genius of Modern Music: Volume 1, and recorded it several times after that. His first version was transcribed by Lionel Grigson in A Thelonious Monk Study Album (Novello, 1993).
Jazz artists Cootie Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Pepper, and Miles Davis have further embellished the song, with songwriter Bernie Hanighen adding lyrics. Both Williams and Hanighen have received co-credits for their contributions.
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 based on Dizzy Gillespie's interpretation. It became a signature song for Davis; his performance of it with Monk at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival may have gotten him a record deal at Columbia Records. He recorded the song in the studio two other times, once for Prestige in 1953 and again in 1956 as released on Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants.
In 1971, Ron Grainer used a down-tempo variation by Cootie Williams to accompany a memorable scene from The Omega Man. The song later appeared on a 2004 Gotan Project CD, Inspiración Espiración, featuring Chet Baker.
In 1986, the song was used as the title for the film Round Midnight which starred veteran saxophonist Dexter Gordon in a fictional story about an expatriate American jazz musician living in Paris. The soundtrack by Herbie Hancock prominently features the song 'Round Midnight along with a number of other jazz standards and a handful of original pieces written by Hancock.
In 2002, Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli commissioned a number of composers to create the Round Midnight Variations. The composers included Roberto Andreoni, Milton Babbitt, Alberto Barbero, Carlo Boccadoro, William Bolcom, David Crumb, George Crumb, Michael Daugherty, Filippo Del Corno, John Harbison, Joel Hoffman, Aaron Jay Kernis, Gerald Levinson, Tobias Picker, Matthew Quayle, Frederic Rzewski, Augusta Read Thomas and Michael Torke.