Along with Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way, and Round About Midnight, Sketches of Spain is one of Miles Davis' most enduring and innovative achievements. Recorded between November 1959 and March 1960 -- after Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley had left the band -- Miles teamed with British arranger Gil Evans for the third time.
Davis brought Evans the album's signature piece, "Concierto de Aranjuez," after hearing a classical version of it at bassist Joe Mondragon's house. Evans was as taken with it as Miles and set about to create an entire album of material around it.
The result is a masterpiece of modern art. On the "Concierto," Evans' arrangement provided an orchestra and jazz band -- Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Elvin Jones -- the opportunity to record a classical work as it was. The piece, with its stunning colors and intricate yet transcendent adagio, played by Davis on a flügelhorn with a Harmon mute, is one of the most memorable works to come from popular culture in the 20th century. Davis' control over his instrument is singular, and Evans' conducting is flawless. Also notable are "Saeta," with one of the most amazing technical solos of Davis' career, and the album's closer, "Solea," which is conceptually a narrative piece, based on an Andalusian folk song, about a woman who encounters the procession taking Christ to Calvary. She sings the narrative of his passion and the procession -- or parade -- with full brass accompaniment moves on. Cobb and Jones, with flamenco-flavored percussion, are particularly wonderful here, as they allow the orchestra to indulge in the lushly passionate arrangement Evans provided to accompany Davis, who was clearly at his most challenged here, though he delivers with grace and verve.
Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience as one encounters a multitude of timbres, tonalities, and harmonic structures seldom found in the music called jazz.
1 Concierto de Aranjuez - Rodrigo 16:19
2 Will O' the Wisp - Cinelu, DeFalla 3:47
3 The Pan Piper - Evans 3:52
4 Saeta - Evans 5:06
5 Solea - Evans 12:15
6 Song of Our Country - [Issued Take] Evans 3:23
7 Concierto de Aranjuez, Pt. 1 - Rodrigo 12:04
8 Concierto de Aranjuez, Pt. 2 - (Ending) Rodrigo 3:33
Miles Davis - Flugelhorn, Trumpet
Paul Chambers - Bass
Jimmy Cobb - Drums
Elvin Jones - Percussion
Danny Bank - Bass, Clarinet, Clarinet (Bass)
Harold Feldman - Clarinet, Flugelhorn, Flute, Oboe
Billy Barber - Tuba
Jimmy McAllister - Tuba
John Barrows - French Horn
Earl Chapin - French Horn
Tony Miranda - French Horn
Joe Singer - French Horn
Al Block - Flugelhorn, Flute, Oboe, Tuba
Eddie Caine - Flugelhorn, Flute
James Buffington - Fender Rhodes, French Horn
Johnny Coles - Trumpet
Bernie Glow - Trumpet
Taft Jordan - Trumpet
Louis Mucci - Trumpet
Ernie Royal - Trumpet
Dick Hixon - Trombone
Frank Rehak -Trombone
Jack Knitzer - Bassoon
Jose Mangual - Percussion
Romeo Penque - Oboe
Janet Putnam - Harp
This is the CD Issue from 1997 and is catalog number CK 65142.
Miles' rendition of the Concierto de Aranjuez is one of the most, if not the most gourgeous song(s) I have ever heard. Obviously, it was Miles playing, but it is a new style. Some people, including the composer, J Rodrigo, do not like it, but it is a wonderful fusion of a neo-classical concerto with a more modern jazz feel. In fact, if only to hear this, the album would be worth it. The more defined Will O' The Wisp and Pan Piper create a nice contrast. Saeta is strikingly different. The marchlike style is in sharp contrast to most Miles, in fact. However, it is still very beautiful and the trumpet mechanics are second to none. The Soleta is a very beautiful, soleful piece that melds nicely with the Concierto. Song of Our Country is an interesting work. The rehersal take of the Concierto is strikingly beautiful. Some people consider this a strange, out-there album that is not Miles Davis. I feel that it just shows how unique Miles really was, and his legacy cannot be discussed without talking about Sketches of Spain. Many people love it, or just think it's plain weird. I encourage buying this album because of all the wonderful contrasts.
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