Revisiting Miles Davis “Sketches Of Spain”, 1960

Revisiting Miles Davis masterpiece “Sketches Of Spain”

It’s Music, And I Like It

One of Miles Davis masterpieces, “Sketches Of Spain” it’s more than just a Jazz album, it’s an enjoyment to the ears and senses and an impressive accomplishment on transforming traditional Spanish Flamenco Guitar music. An audacious project during the late 1950’s, and almost a taboo among the Jazz world, Davis first developed the idea after listening to the 1939 Spanish album “Concierto de Aranjuez” by composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Together with conductor Gil Evans he worked on “Sketches Of Spain” that features Spanish compositions by Rodrigo, Manuel De Falla, a traditional one called “The Pan Piper (a.k.a. Alborada de Vigo)”,  and two Evan’s compositions This was one of the first Jazz albums to cross the actual boundaries of Jazz music, there was an express desire from Davis to experiment and explore new sounds, this was his first adventure on experimental music (a trend followed by others such as John Coltrane in the 1963 album “Impressions” where he experimented with Indian and Swedish music).

“Sketches Of Spain” it’s also considered one of all time greatest albums, but that wasn’t really the case when it first was released, the skepticism of the fusion between Spanish and Jazz music didn’t convinced many Jazz fans and Davis, when often questioned if  “Sketches Of Spain” was an actual Jazz album famously replied “It’s music, and I like it” , despite the criticism Evans and Davis won the 1961 Grammy Award for Best Original Jazz Composition.

The Tracks

 The first part of the album, Side A it’s almost exclusively the extended version of the second movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. It is one of the finest moments of the album, a fantastic journey through musical senses. The second track is Manuel De Falla’s “Will o’ the Wisp” Side B opens with traditional Spanish song “The Pan Piper (a.k.a. Alborada de Vigo)”, it’s filled with 3 tracks being the last two “Saeta” and “Solea” originals by Gil Evans.

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 The influence of this album in many different genres of music is notorious, being one of the most famous the Psychedelic anthem “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane which Grace Slick, singer and composer, mentioned to be heavily influenced by “Sketches Of Spain”. Even if you’re not a Jazz fan, “Sketches Of Spain” has a high probability of becoming one of your favorite albums, as stated before it is much more than Jazz, it’s a milestone on the birth of modern Jazz and fusion/experimental music with the fine print of Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

Side 1
“Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)” (Joaquín Rodrigo)
“Will o’ the Wisp” (Manuel de Falla)

Side 2
“The Pan Piper (a.k.a. Alborada de Vigo)” (traditional)
“Saeta” (Gil Evans)
“Solea” (Evans)

Personnel (partial):
Miles Davis: trumpet, flugelhorn
Gil Evans: arranger, conductor
Danny Bank: bass clarinet
Bill Barber: tuba
Taft Jordan: trumpet
Jimmy Cobb: drums
Paul Chambers: bass

Recorded during: November 20th, 1959; March 10th, 1960, Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York
Produced by: Teo Macero, Irving Townsend
Release Date: July 18th, 1960
Label: Columbia

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