Round Midnight as played by Richie Beirach

A few years ago, I decided to transcribe this track in order to find out what Richie Beirach was doing with the harmony of Round Midnight. I find Monk’s tunes to be highly robust and adaptable, and it was fascinating to hear a take on one of his most frequently played tunes which played hard and fast with conventional harmony.

Hank Jones

Richie Beirach

Check out Richie’s use of incomplete chords. In bar 180, the final chord of the bar looks like a spread out cluster of note, but with the addition of a few extra chord tones, it starts to sound like an altered A7 chord, happily leading down a semi-tone to the Ab minor chord in the next bar. Something similar could be said of the last chord in bar 20, where the collection of dissonances function somewhat like a V chord.

Initially I was just going to transcribe the reharmonisation of the melody, however I quickly started delving deeper into the performance and ultimately did the entire thing.

Notice how Richie simplifies the harmony when his solo moves into double time, and the way that, despite his obfuscation of the original harmony, he sticks quite close to the melody of the tune so that there’s always a hook back into the familiar.

Another thing Richie does to ground the performance, is his use of repetition. Look at bars 12 and 14, and then jump to 20 and 22. Notice anything familiar? While being subtly difference to each other, bars 12/20 and 14/22 both contain a pattern that Richie reuses several times in the same part of the tune throughout. Another great hook that a listener can latch onto.

Anyway, here’s the pdf. In it, I’ve done some further chord analysis (there’s some freaky stuff in there). There’s definitely some chord symbols in there that are open to interpretation! Let me know what you think!

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Round Midnight – Richie Beirach

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