Sketches of Spain in my opinion one of Miles most interesting works combining tradional jazz with Flamenco to produce a rare, unique classic soundscape. Gil Evans and Miles seem to blend seemlessly together to portray an aural image of Spain and if you close your eyes you can envision the barren scenery and mountains. The key song is 'Concierto De Aranjuez' the masterpiece which controls the theme for the complete album and makes it sound like no other work in the Miles Davis canon. The legacy edition adds virtually all of the rarities from the era, many of which have only previously been available on expensive box sets and unlike many other special editions, the music that has been added as extras spread over the two disc set are of similar quality to the original album, that is so beautifully mastered on this 50th Anniversary Edition. Featuring 18 tracks over the 2 CDs this is wonderful collection and its nicely packaged with an interesting 24 page booklet. I think this anniversary edition is worth getting even if you already have Sketches of Spain on CD, and its a great tribute to this timeless, 50 year old album which is on sale at a bargain price at Amazon.
This is simply an essential part of the Miles Davis canon. His collaborations with Gil Evans were bold and innovative and this is a key part of those sessions. I cant imagine any modern jazz collection without it.
As most readers familiar with Miles Davis' music will know, `Sketches of Spain' recorded in 1959-60 was his third and final collaborative project with orchestral arranger Gil Evans. The original album release, distilled from the recording sessions, explored the musical styles of the Iberian Peninsula and has a distinctive feel quite different from Miles' other work: listeners familiar with classical music who never previously connected with jazz often found SoS to be an accessible gateway to other innovative jazz compositions of the era.
The opener was an extended re-interpretation of the second (slow) 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 piece 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 Roderigo's score for the guitar, Miles responded to the more formalised framework with understated mastery and worked with the orchestra to fine result. 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.
`Will o' the Wisp', `The Pan Piper' and `Saeta', each different but blending seamlessly with `Aranjuez' in style and confirming the mood, completed the original album. The long closer, `Solea' (12.08) was an attention-grabber grounded on Gil's percussion-dominant 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.
The CD cover-presentation of this extended 2-disk edition is (confusingly) identical to that of the original album: the 50/50 bright yellow-sky red-earth impressionistic sketch overlaid with black titling and small silhouette of a trumpet player in profile. The content, however, features a lot of new material and, IMO, is worth having even if you have the original single disk.
The 70 minutes or so of new material, mainly on the second disk, includes `The Maids of Cadiz' previously released on `Miles Ahead' in 1957, and genuinely at home nested here amongst Evans' main body of Iberian-inspired orchestral work with Miles. Several alternate takes of CdA are offered, previously available only on the 1996 release `The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings', plus the only extant audience-live recording of the piece with Gil Evans conducting the orchestra, previously available on the 1987-released `The Legendary Carnegie Hall Concert'. Other new material includes two versions of `Song of our Country' and an interesting closing piece, `Teo.' A pdf file may be accessed from the disks and a well-written and professionally produced booklet with fine photography from the sessions and notes written by Gunther Schuller completes the package.
Some great photos of Gil and Miles are included. Overall, at the offer price, this is the best version of `Sketches of Spain' to buy: you get all the music with great sound resolution, and a lot more besides.
One of Miles Davis' classic albums. His version of Concierto de Aranjuez gives another perspective on Rodrigo's masterpiece and, although less varied in mood than the original, manages to say something fresh about Spain and about being human. Everyone should hear it at least once!