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4.3 out of 5 stars
Sketches Of Spain
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2005
The first time I heard Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo for Spanish guitar and symphonic orchestra it was performed by virtuoso Narciso Yepes. It was the most incredible music I had heard, decades ago. The world agreed because since Yepes first recorded Rodrigo's concerto four decades ago literally hundreds of different artists recorded this ethereal music. Enter Miles Davis.
Davis adapted the guitar solo to trumpet and created yet another kind of ethereal music. For his original guitar composition, Rodrigo balanced the gentle tones of the solo instrument with orchetral brass .... which often plays dissonant chords, but with soft understatement. What Davis produced is not simply transposing guitar to trumpet and the symphonic orchestral parts to a large brass section. Rather, Davis created a new sound by fusing American jazz styles with Spanish undertones. Rather than softening the brass so as not to drown out the acoustic guitar, the volume was raised in Davis' rendition and now the powerful solo trumpet carries on a dialog with an occasionally competing, and at other times counterpointal, brass section.
I imagine that when Rodrigo wrote Concierto de Aranjuez, he couldn't have imagined how far removed from his native Spain this music would travel ... reinterpreted by the American jazz world. But there it is. Had Narciso Yepes never played the concerto and the world only heard Miles Davis' rendition then the world would still have been quite happy. But now there are both kinds of music, and the lucky listener can decide to move between the two worlds of Davis and Yepes. What a triumph for modern music!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 November 2002
Miles lays his trumpet down against Gil Evans arrangements of Rodrigo's Concierto De Aranjuez (Normally features classical guitar) and De Fallas Will O' the Wisp. The other three tunes were penned by Evans. The orchestration is exquisite and repays repeated listenings. Over this Davis solos in a restrained manner but the emotion of his playing continually shines through.
This is a very original album and sounds like nothing else.
A masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2008
I originally bought this album as a boxed set of three LP's, Kind of Blue, Porgy and Bess were the other two. It tends to be loathed by "true believers" largely, I think, because it was one of the most popular. Therefore: it was a sore trial to the sort of deaf elitists that you find at Jazz and Orchestral music events. (People who clap harder as the music gets worse.)

It does have it's faults, the over use of castanets, which is like adding atmosphere with ketchup. The gushing orchestration which pervades the collection like cheap perfume in dance-hall. Occasional shrieking trumpet - where MD definitely looses the thread.

It's still a great album and well worth a listen. It maybe the weakest of the three albums mentioned. It's still worth five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Sketches of Spain" recorded in 1959-60 was the third project resulting from the long collaboration between Miles Davis and innovative master of orchestral arrangements Gil Evans. The album explores the musical styles of the Iberian Peninsula and has a distinctive feel quite different from any of Miles' other work, often described as something of a musical landmark. A listener familiar with classical music who has never been able to connect with jazz might find this collection an immediately accessible gateway.

The opener is an extended re-interpretation of the second movement of J. Roderigo's modern impressionist-classical piece "Concierto di Aranjuez", which Miles listened to repeatedly in 1959 and declared "I couldn't get it out of my mind." Gil's orchestration for an ensemble of brass and woodwind anchors the melody, is faithful to Roderigo's score and captures the spirit of the original to perfection. It is more classical (i.e. rigid) in structure than normally found in jazz, allowing only constrained improvisation around the melody. In re-interpreting the original score for the guitar, Miles responds to the more formalised framework with understated mastery and works with the orchestra to fine result: a satisfying and distinctive mood-piece which lingers in the memory. Roderigo, by the way, didn't like it: the brass-dominated orchestral sound too much of a departure from his vision; the absence of the Spanish guitar at the heart of the piece, and the second movement of the concerto removed from the context of the faster and more upbeat first and third movements not at all to the composer's taste. However, in the context of the other pieces on Miles and Gil's "Sketches of Spain" it fits perfectly and sets the mood.

Three shorter pieces, "Will o' the Wisp", "The Pan Piper" and "Saeta" follow, each different but blending seamlessly with "Aranjuez" in style and confirming the mood. The long closer, "Solea" (12.08) is an attention-grabber grounded on Gil's spellbinding percussion-dominated orchestration, an invitation to which Miles responds with intelligence and expressive sensitivity to weave a fine tapestry filled with moments of tension and delight, still in the Iberian mode.

"Sketches of Spain" is a fine album, distinctive and special, which should never be absent from any serious collection of Miles Davis' key works. Even if you're not really a fan of jazz in general or of Miles in particular but love the Concierto di Aranjuaz or the music of Spain, consider making an exception and adding it to your collection. For a Miles Davis fan, it's indispensable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Sketches of Spain" recorded in 1959-60 was the third project resulting from the long collaboration between Miles Davis and innovative master of orchestral arrangements Gil Evans. The album explores the musical styles of the Iberian Peninsula and has a distinctive feel quite different from any of Miles' other work, often described as something of a musical landmark. A listener familiar with classical music who has never been able to connect with jazz might find this collection an immediately accessible gateway.

The opener is an extended re-interpretation of the second movement of J. Roderigo's modern impressionist-classical piece "Concierto di Aranjuez", which Miles listened to repeatedly in 1959 and declared "I couldn't get it out of my mind." Gil's orchestration for an ensemble of brass and woodwind anchors the melody, is faithful to Roderigo's score and captures the spirit of the original to perfection. It is more classical (i.e. rigid) in structure than normally found in jazz, allowing only constrained improvisation around the melody. In re-interpreting the original score for the guitar, Miles responds to the more formalised framework with understated mastery and works with the orchestra to fine result: a satisfying and distinctive mood-piece which lingers in the memory. Roderigo, by the way, didn't like it: the brass-dominated orchestral sound too much of a departure from his vision; the absence of the Spanish guitar at the heart of the piece, and the second movement of the concerto removed from the context of the faster and more upbeat first and third movements not at all to the composer's taste. However, in the context of the other pieces on Miles and Gil's "Sketches of Spain" it fits perfectly and sets the mood.

Three shorter pieces, "Will o' the Wisp", "The Pan Piper" and "Saeta" follow, each different but blending seamlessly with "Aranjuez" in style and confirming the mood. The long closer, "Solea" (12.08) is an attention-grabber grounded on Gil's spellbinding percussion-dominated orchestration, an invitation to which Miles responds with intelligence and expressive sensitivity to weave a fine tapestry filled with moments of tension and delight, still in the Iberian mode.

"Sketches of Spain" is a fine album, distinctive and special, which should never be absent from any serious collection of Miles Davis' key works. Even if you're not really a fan of jazz in general or of Miles in particular but love the Concierto di Aranjuaz or the music of Spain, consider making an exception and adding it to your collection. For a Miles Davis fan, it's indispensable.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2003
For me this is miles' best work. Downbeat, at times introspective, but always melodic and beautiful. I think i must have listened to Solea almost every week for the last 5 years.
This is Miles before he went all high tempo and electric. It's similar to Porgy and Bess in terms of the overall almost symphonic tonal quality, and similar to the musical excellence of Kind of Blue. Where this has the edge for me though is it's just Miles, no succession of solos. That means that miles develops complex, long, and emotionally intense performances.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2013
I bought Sketches of Spain on CD maybe 23 years ago and loved it then. You can't call Miles' playing on this beautiful but it is totally engrossing and almost an emotional experience (sorry - 'experience' is an overworked word). The Gil Evans arrangements are stunning - sometimes so quiet you almost sense rather than hear the instruments whilst at other times rocking you on your heels.
And the best news is - it really does sound better on vinyl than CD. The record itself has very low surface noise, a complete absence of clicks and is an excellent quality recording.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2000
It would be all to easy to go off and review 'Kind Of Blue' and churn out the standard 'Best jazz album ever made' lines along with everyone else - but for this reviewer, 'Sketches Of Spain' is, in many respects, the superior piece. Recorded during a highly prolific period for Davis, each track carries the same lazy, loping swoon exercised so beatifully on the opener 'Concierto de Aranjuez', without losing its own individuality. To describe the pieces in any more detail is to trivialize the sheer quantity and depth of ideas and emotions contained within. This is not an album to fill pregnant pauses at partys, or to be casually sampled once in a while. It is an album to be studied, cherished and, above all, played again and again. Don't just listen - try to HEAR. This is, after all, quintessential Miles...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
Without Concierto de Aranjuez I would have given Sketches of Spain 4 stars but with it......Yep its 5 lovely stars. Gil Evans & Miles Davis interpretation of music is just wonderful. The first 4 minutes of Concierto de Aranjuez may be the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2013
so far this is the moodiest album by Davis. My favourite - really captures something distinct. Certainly spanish in influence and would recommend to those who have not sampled Davis so far... not at all hard work.
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