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Miles Davis - Sketches Of Spain CD (album) cover


Miles Davis

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 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.

Report this review (#179606)
Posted Friday, August 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars One could already hear from Kind of Blue, Miles was bringing a certain Spanish influence into his composition. It comes out in full form here as Miles gives a jazzy rendition of the classical piece Concierto de Aranjuez. This track is the centerpiece of the album and truly a masterpiece, Miles is probably the only guy who could take a classical piece, turn it into jazz, and make it better than the original. This track was also at the time one of the best fusions of jazz and classical yet achieved, arguably ever achieved. Some of his most lyrical playing is featured on this album, and he gives an excellent and possibly definitive version of Will o' the Wisp. Gil Evans original compositions The Pan Piper, Saeta, and Solea are some of the best material Miles has worked with as well. Another masterpiece album from Miles in a row, this should be owned by anyone with an interest in art music. 5 stars for being more progressive than any rock band could ever be.
Report this review (#180644)
Posted Saturday, August 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Probably my first introduction to Miles Davis and like so many appreciators of MD music it took a long long time to 'Get it'. Once hooked however this album (apart from sentimental association) is a significant release from Miles Davis with hints of progressive flavours throughout. No doubt darker, more menacing progressive albums to follow but Sketches of Spain is as great a place to start as any. Highlights of SoS are part two of Concierto de Aranjuez , the incredible version of Will o the Wisp and Solea. There is some great ryhtym work developing on SoS. It is very hard defining MD's music especially certain albums, like Sketches Of Spain but this is excellent value and is highly recommended to all those progressive music followers wanting to get into the artists music but are not sure where to start. The diehards will already have this near the top of the pile.
Report this review (#180675)
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Almost classical Miles album, this one is great work from the time before jazz fusion was invented. Great mix of symphonic atmosphere (with minimalistic resources) and be-bop intelligent sound.

Soft mid-tempo or down-tempo compositions with very well balanced instruments, light and sunny music ( mostly because of many Spanish folk /flamenco elements). Sound is full of Davis trumpet solos, and you will listen all album as one bright colourful suite.

Whenever still nothing connected with later jazz fusion works, because of it's symphonic sound album could attract many symphonic prog lovers. For jazz fans it is very pleasant and almost classic work from be-bop and cool jazz period.

Very recommended for all lovers of great music from be-bop era as excellent work ( with symphonic orchestration) . Concerto De Aranjuez is all time classic piece.

Report this review (#256172)
Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars The beginning of symphonic prog as we know it?

Probably. Symphonic progressive rock (as I understand it) is little more than rock with heavy classical influence and some jazz ideas. SKETCHES OF SPAIN has none of the rock and lots more jazz, but it sounds more classical than jazz to my ears. Possibly because Gil Evans had more to do with the writing than Davis did (or at least, that's what the credits suggest). Davis still puts effort into this release as the main trumpet parts have his unique style of playing; the man could communicate emotions with the trumpet better than most any other instrumentalist or vocalist that I know of.

The title has the word ''Sketches'' in it, and I often go to the shorter tracks (which I refer to as the sketches) as opposed to the longer pieces, but a good chunk of Evans's compositions (the last three) really hold up well. For instance, ''The Pan Piper'' is astoundingly gorgeous; the last half of it is one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever heard from any artist or composer. ''Saeta'' is another strong piece that sounds as if the matador is entering the bullring. The twelve-minute ''Solea'' sounds like a piece that could be played for the King of Spain, but it is a tad too long. The big ''Concerto de Aranjuez'' sadly didn't really meet my expectations; it is a nice classical adaptation that runs a little too long for what it's trying to do.

If you have any interest in symphonic prog, this might have an outside chance of making regular rotations in your album deck. It's jazz with heavy classical influence. I don't think it's as strong of an album as some of Davis's other works which explains (or excuses, whichever word you're more comfortable using) the nonchalant rating. Overall, SKETCHES OF SPAIN is a nice album that's missing more of Davis's touch and some oomph in the compositions.

Report this review (#522711)
Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 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.

Report this review (#583247)
Posted Monday, December 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars For their third collaboration, Miles Davis and Gil Evans teamed up to tackle the whole Third Stream business - then a big wave in jazz, much like jazz-rock fusion would become a big wave at the other end of the 1960s - and knock it out of the park. The inclusion of flamenco and saeta accents here and there ensures that the album keeps a little spice and voids descending into syrupy 1950s Hollywood-classical, and in addition a suitable amount of effort is made to ensure that the orchestra swings just as much as the jazz players do. The sound of the album will surprise listeners more used to Miles' modal jazz and post-bop offerings from around this period, but precisely because it stands out so much it becomes a real gem in Miles' extensive discography.
Report this review (#1602638)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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