MILES DAVIS — Sketches of Spain

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MILES DAVIS - Sketches of Spain cover
4.15 | 57 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1960

Filed under Third Stream


A1 Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio) 16:14*
A2 Will O' The Wisp (From "El Amor Brujo") 3:48**
B1 The Pan Piper 3:57**
B2 Saeta 4:57**
B3 Solea 12:08**


* November 20, 1959
Miles Davis (tpt, flh);
Ernie Royal (tpt);
Bernie Glow (tpt);
Taft Jordan (tpt);
Louis Mucci (tpt);
Dick Hixon (tb);
Frank Rehak (tb);
Jimmy Buffington (frh);
John Barrows (frh);
Earl Chapin (frh);
Jimmy McAllister (tuba);
Al Block (fl);
Eddie Caine (fl);
Romeo Penque (oboe);
Harold Feldman (oboe, cl);
Danny Bank (bcl);
Jack Knitzer (bssn);
Janet Putnam (harp);
Paul Chambers (b);
Jimmy Cobb (d);
Elvin Jones (perc);
José Mangual (perc);
Gil Evans (arr, cond)

** March 10, 1960
Miles Davis (tpt);
Ernie Royal (tpt);
Bernie Glow (tpt);
Johnny Coles (tpt);
Louis Mucci (tpt);
Dick Hixon (tb);
Frank Rehak (tb);
Jimmy Buffington (frh);
Joe Singer (frh);
Tony Miranda (frh);
Bill Barber (tuba);
Al Block (fl);
Harold Feldman (fl);
Danny Bank (bcl);
Romeo Penque (oboe);
Jack Knitzer (bssn);
Janet Putnam (harp);
Paul Chambers (b);
Jimmy Cobb (d); Elvin Jones (perc);
Elden "Buster" Bailey (perc);
Gil Evans (arr, cond)

About this release

Columbia ‎– CL 1480 (US)

Recorded 20 November 1959 and 10-11 March 1960

Thanks to EZ Money, Matt, snobb, js for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Hands down Gil Evans and Miles Davis' best collaboration.

'Sketches of Spain' is a moving collaboration of Spanish classical and folk songs. Supported by around 19 players, (two of which were Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums) this is a ensemble album where in the opener, Miles' trumpet takes the place of Rodrigo's classical guitar. And masterfully. Subtle, restrained and mournful, this rivals 'Kind of Blue' for sheer emotion, and is perhaps more evocative. When you hear this album, you see Spain.

I do feel this is more of a classical record rather than a strictly jazz one, but then, it's both. The adagio of 'Concierto de Aranjuez' is beautiful and Gil Evans arranges it with a mixture of subtlety (low in the mix are maracas or castanets) and grandeur, when the orchestra swells to crescendo, Mile's trumpet riding it out.

Among the the remaining tracks, 'Will O the Wisp' is a piece that musically embodies a playful, curious nature, with Miles again soaring over the backing with a distinctive and fitting whine to his playing.

'The Pan Piper' begins Side Two in similar fashion before things take a military turn with a solemn drum march, during an interpretation of traditional Spanish religious music in 'Saeta'. Bringing the album to a close in a mood sympathetic to Saeta is 'Solea' which will be familiar to lovers of flamenco music. It builds and releases tension in a cycle, with restrained but effective soloing from Miles once again. Four stars for me.

Highly recommended if you are looking for something more cinematic in your jazz. For Davis fans, worth it for the adagio alone.

Members reviews

Over the years Miles Davis had worked together with arranger Gil Evans who wrote big band arrangements that feature Miles Davis at the forefront of the mix. This album is possibly one of the best collaborations between Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

The music in this album is terribly unique. Not only does Miles have the sad, cool mood expressed in "Kind of Blue" in this album, but all of the arrangements are written in the Spanish style. The combination of the two really makes a great sound. On the contrary, those who will be expecting swing of any kind may be disappointed at the lack of traditional jazz influences. Despite this, improvisation is very much evident.

The album's strongest point is the arrangement of the adagio movement of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, despite the fact that the original version of the concierto featured the guitar. Ironically enough, Joaquin Rodrigo wasn't necessarily impressed with the arrangement.

A must-have for all Miles Davis fans.
Sketches of Spain is often regarded as of the more unique albums in Miles Davis' massive discography - surely no small undertaking when we're talking about a catalog that consists of be-bop, cool jazz, fusion, pop/jazz, hard bop, and nearly every other style of twentieth century jazz music. This 1960 collaboration between Davis and Gil Evans shows very limited improvisation, and instead focused on (yep, you guessed it) Spanish-influenced classical compositions. This was indeed a very interesting idea for a jazz record at the time, and Sketches of Spain's unique flamenco style sets it apart from any other album in Davis' catalog. Even though it drifts into background music a bit too frequently for my liking, Sketches of Spain is largely an innovative and successful effort from Miles Davis.

This is very much an 'album of two halves', seeing that side one consists of well-known pieces by Spanish composers, whereas side two is made up of three songs written by Gil Evans. All of Sketches of Spain is laden with a distinct Spanish flavoring, though, so the fact that there are different composers here doesn't lead to incoherency in any form. The epic 16-minute "Concierto de Aranjuez" (originally written by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo) is my favorite track here by a longshot - I absolutely love the song by the strength of its composition alone, but the unique spin that Miles Davis and Gil Evans give this classic is absolutely stunning. This is a beautiful piece of music, and the sheer power of this arrangement is breathtaking. The rest of the album is undoubtedly good, but it seldom reaches the level of finesse that the first song achieves. Miles' playing is excellent as always (he even delivers some of his finest performances here), the band backing him is dynamic, and the production is crystal clear - I just don't think the album as a whole is nearly as fantastic as the opening track. Apart from a few captivating hooks and solos, I find my mind wandering an uncomfortable amount of times throughout the album's 41 minute duration. Scrolling through other reviews show that I'm in a small minority, though, so don't take my word for it without hearing all of Sketches of Spain for yourself.

Sketches of Spain is an interesting experiment in Miles Davis' career, and while I'm not entirely convinced that it's one of the trumpeter's finest efforts, it's a highly enjoyable album for any fan of jazz and classical music. Any fan of Miles Davis who hasn't already heard Sketches of Spain (if there are any) should definitely make sure it finds a way into their collection - this intriguing mix of Spanish classical and jazz music is bound to make for at least a few solid listening experiences. So even though this isn't a flawless album in my eyes, the uniqueness of the project and the greatness of "Concierto de Aranjuez" is enough for me to consider it a 3.5 star album. Not one of the first Davis albums I'd recommend, but certainly not one of the last either.
Sean Trane
As I've said previously, there is no way I will review all albums prior the era we are concerned, apart from reviewing AKOB, I will also review this one, because it acts a bit as a concept and throws in Spanish music in the standard jazz, much the same way Coltrane was busy with Africa, roots into jazz (see his album Africa/Brass). SOS is part of Mile's "Gil Evans Trilogy", Gil being the Canadian pianist/arranger that Miles will thrust for musical direction, and more than Porgy & Bess, SOS is the most acclaimed. Of you're a hopeless symphonic proghead loving all of these dramatic moments, and was never into jazz-inflected music, this might be the album for you to finally "get" jazz, which under Gil's directions and compositions (all except Rodrigo's Aranjuez are his) comes close to classic music. This possible only to Evans' outstanding arrangements as the only string instruments are Paul Chambers's contrabass and Putnam's harp; and for Rodrigo's Concerto De Aranjuez, this is quite a feat. Of course SOS is not just "Orange Juice", as the Mexican-sounding (due to the percussions) Will-Of-Wisp and The Pan Piper without the Pan flute (and usually more associated with Greek or Balkanised mythology) are short track that give out as much flavour as the Concerto did. The next two tracks Saeta and Solea are both again close to the Will-Of-Wisp realm, but this time the rhythm is more enthralling and we could believe ourselves hearing the soundtrack of those old Zorro B&W movies, so if you like dramatics, in your music you should find plenty of it in this album. The remastered issue comes with Aranjuez outtakes, but also the unavailable Song Of Our Country, which is pretty well in the context of the album as it was recorded the same day (and line-up) as the rest of the tracks (Aranjuez excepted).

Well this third and last collaboration between Evans and Davis gave out the nearly perfect SOS, obviously they patted ways and went on to greatzer things, but this is specially valid for Miles. But it's clear that he probably wouldn't have reached his phenomenal statiure both in the 60'sand in the 70's, if he hadn't dealt with Evans's directions ibn the first place. As I said above, if some of those progheads are hopelessly lost out on classically-derived melodies or XXX and are not able to get into jazz, they should at least try this album out before definitely turning their backs upon the genre.

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