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Sketches of Spain Original recording remastered, Original recording reissued
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Miles Davis's impact on jazz is almost incalculable. From his early days as a sideman for Charlie Parker, through his groundbreaking Birth of the Cool sessions, to his stunning small groups of the '50s and '60s, through to his electric renaissance, the trumpeter, bandleader, and composer has left a deep mark on all who came after. He is one of jazz's true giants. Sketches of Spain, though one of Davis's most commercially successful sessions, is also one of his most controversial. Re-teaming with arranger and composer Gil Evans, who played such a pivotal role in Davis's 1949 Birth of the Cool recordings, Davis recorded a series of large group albums beginning in the late '50s, including Porgy and Bess, Miles Ahead, and Quiet Nights. Sketches of Spain, with its emphasis on flamenco, rich orchestrations, and relaxed tempos, is certainly one of Davis's most mellow recordings (he even works out on fluegelhorn), and proved to have broad appeal. To some critics, however, the project was "elevated elevator music." An expanded version of the album, featuring alternative tracks and unreleased material, was issued in 1997 by Columbia Legacy. --Fred Goodman
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Top Customer Reviews
Among instrumentalists, the collaborations of Miles Davis and Gil Evans are often controversial. Though people universally acknowledge that Evans was a genius as an arranger, it's not easy for those who want a full out hard-bop blowing session to adjust to the cool colors and laid back aesthetic of these works. For many; the most difficult of the Davis/Evans collaborations is this third one in the series. While Miles Ahead and Porgy and Bess both have obvious roots in big band writing, Sketches of Spain delves into material that was generally not in the mainstream at the time. That it does so with subtlety and style is something that can often be overlooked by those who wish that Miles would blow more.
Sketches of Spain has its genesis in the slow movement of the Rodrigo Concierto di Arguanez, one of the most beloved pieces of classical music out of Spain. Both Miles and Gil Evans were taken with the piece when they were introduced to it and it forms the centerpiece of the album, and the number that seems to register the greatest number of complaints. Purists in the classical world dislike it's fast and loose treatment of the original work, and in fact, Rodrigo was on record as detesting the final product. And jazz musicians felt the work to be pretentious, with not enough room for Miles to solo, and not enough out and out swing. There was also a feeling that the work was just blatantly copied from it's origins and that any brilliance in the work was due to Rodrigo, not to Evans.
A careful hearing, especially a side-by-side comparison with the original Concierto, can dispel much of the criticism of this work. Evans does not merely imitate the piece; he imaginatively rethinks it for wind ensemble.Read more ›
I think I figured out the reason when I stumbled across the actual Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez on a CD of classical guitar pieces. It really is a beautiful piece. What surprised me was how similar it was to the version on Sketches of Spain. Miles's version was essentially the same piece arranged for jazz band: nothing particularly exciting was done to the music, and any changes in the harmony that took place with the transposition of instruments were, if anything, to the detriment of the music. There's a reason this piece was, after all, written for guitar.
The rest of the album-with the exception of Solea-gives me the same impression. It's a fan letter to Spain; it recreates their music without creating anything new or vital. I remember reading in the liner notes that the recording of this album was plagued with difficulties, because Miles kept showing up late to sessions without being adequately prepared. Now, I don't know how he acted during the sessions that created Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way, or Miles Smiles-but I have a feeling it wasn't like that. Those records bristle with enthusiasm and energy: everyone in them was fully committed to what was being done.Read more ›
Believe it or not, the 20 bit digital re-mastering stands out most for me. The sound quality is amazing. This cd sounds as if it was recorded yesterday.
However, as far as content goes, I think this cd is a bit over rated. First of all, this really isn't jazz (at least my definition of jazz anyway). Miles is brilliant, Gil Evans is brilliant, the band is brilliant, but this just isn't the type of jazz I like to listen to. Some people have classified this as "Jazzed-Up Spanish Classical," and I guess that works for me, because I really can't think of a better way to describe it.
I just prefer the quintent recordings between 1965-1968: 'Miles Smiles,' 'Sorcerer,' 'Nefertiti,' and 'ESP.' I also like 'Kind of Blue' (of course), 'Porgy & Bess' and many others way better than this. All of these albums are far more listenable, and contain the kind of jazz and the kind of Miles Davis music that I prefer.
Also, on this cd, there are 2 versions of 'Concierto De Aranjuez.' One track is the original cut. The other is an alternate take. Both are basically the same and play for about 16 minutes, but unfortunately, I really don't care that much for this track. So basically that amounts to 32 minutes worth of music that I could do without. Miles is great, but again, this just isn't the type of jazz or the Miles Davis kind-of-music that I like to listen to.
Look somewhere else if you want to buy your first Miles Davis CD. Start with any of the cd's I mentioned above for a much better sample of his work.
However, with all that said, I still would consider this a "must have" CD for any true Miles Davis fan, and I do listen to this CD a lot even though my review is somewhat negative. Afterall, I did give this a 4 star rating, and that isn't that bad...
Most recent customer reviews
It was amazing! I got it in two days and it was a nice quality I really recommend thisPublished 17 months ago by Kirstin
Album is awesome, arrived as described.
Album arrived in good time.
An awesome addition to my vinyl record library.
Unless you own a SuperAudio CD player, makes sure you order the $9 version of this CD. You will try and try and try to get it to work in your CD player only to discover it will... Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2005
Unless you own a SuperAudio CD player, makes sure you order the $9 version of this CD. You will try and try and try to get it to work in your CD player only to discsver it will... Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2005
The reviewers that talk about playing Relaxin or Kind of Blue hundreds of times
but this only a dozen really sum up this great album. Read more