Saturday, July 18, 2015

sketches of spain

Miles Davis and Gil Evans created a powerful artistic statement with this panoramic potpourri of jazz, classical, flamenco, Arab maqam, and Andalusian folk.     Following the landmark 'Kind of Blue', John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley moved on other projects and Davis teamed up once again with Gil Evans  (they had collaborated on 'Birth of the Cool' and 'Miles Ahead' in 1957, and 'Porgy and Bess' in 1958) for 'Sketches of Spain'.  

Recorded at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York with producers Teo Macero and Irving Townsend, the sessions featured Miles Davis on trumpet and flugelhorn and Gil Evans as arranger and conductor.   Three jazz players (Paul Chambers on  bass;  Jimmy Cobb on drums;  Elvin Jones on percussion) collaborated with the orchestra of  Danny Bank on bass clarinet;   Bill Barber and Jimmy McAllister on tuba;  John Barrows, James Buffington, Earl Chapin, Tony Miranda, and  Joe Singer on  French horn;   Albert Block, Eddie Caine, on flute;    Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, Taft Jordan, Louis Mucci, and Ernie Royal on trumpet;   Harold Feldman on  clarinet, flute, and oboe;   Dick Hixon and Frank Rehak on trombone;    Jack Knitzer on bassoon;   Romeo Penque on oboe;  Janet Putnam on harp;  with added percussion from Jose Mangual.    

During the production Davis would express:      "I love that chord and the end of that section with the flutes way up there.  That's all I could hear last night in my sleep...You know, the melody is so strong there's nothing you have to do with it.  If you tried to play bebop on it, you'd wind up being a hip cornball.  The thing I have to do now is make things connect, make them mean something in what I play around it."

Evans explained:    "[We] hadn't intended to make a Spanish album. We were just going to do the Concierto de Aranjuez. A friend of Miles gave him the only album in existence with that piece. He brought it back to New York and I copied the music off the record because there was no score. By the time we did that, we began to listen to other folk music, music played in clubs in Spain... So we learned a lot from that and it ended up being a Spanish album. The Rodrigo, the melody is so beautiful. It's such a strong song. I was so thrilled with that."

Although the album received mixed reviews from jazz critics, it reached number thirteen in the US jazz album chart and went gold in the UK and the US and has come to be one of his most enduring achievements.  Davis said, "It's music; and I like it."

'Sketches of Spain'
full album:

Side one"Concierto de Aranjuez" (Adagio) (JoaquĆ­n Rodrigo) – 16:19
"Will o' the Wisp" (Manuel de Falla) – 3:47
Side two
"The Pan Piper" (a.k.a. Alborada de Vigo) (traditional) – 3:52
"Saeta" (Gil Evans) – 5:06
"Solea" (Evans) – 12:15

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