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DAVIS' BRASS RENDITION OF RODRIGO'S CONCERTO IS PERFECT
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!