Miles Davis
Sketches of Spain


4.5
superb

Review

by doug USER (78 Reviews)
August 19th, 2009 | 23 replies | 4,891 views


Release Date: 1960 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “I'll play it first and tell you what it is later.” – Miles Davis

The year is 1960, and it has been one year since Miles Davis had released the album, Kind of Blue which defined modal jazz, and made a monumental leap into improvisation. Sketches of Spain is the follow up album to its spectacular predecessor, and Davis could not have followed it up more brilliantly, even though it has an almost completely different vibe.

The last track on Davis’ almost formidable, Kind of Blue is ‘Flamenco Sketches.’ You may wonder why I am mentioning this track, since it’s off a complete different album. The reasoning being that when Davis’ began his next project - Sketches of Spain - one year later, ‘Flamenco Sketches’ was the connection between the two, as it served as a bridge from the straight forward cool jazz style that Kind of Blue did so well, to the innovative and adventurous re-working of traditional Spanish folk songs which are found on Sketches of Spain . Davis’ drastic change of formula was inspired by a piece, being the first track, entitled ‘Concierto de Aranjuez.’ This piece dug heavily into a deep musical past, giving out tradition flamenco guitar lines and delving into the Arab world of music. ‘Concierto de Arenjuez’ - after the Davis’ adaption - is filled with rich syncopated rhythms and melodic runs, which fills your ears with some of the most blissful jazz you could hope for.

‘Will O’ The Wisp’ follows the spectacular ‘Concierto de Arenjuez’ and gives us a definite wispy sounding trumpet playing over the length of the piece, while the odd timed percussion feel grooves away in the background. The horn lines on this track are the strength as it delivers an utmost brilliant display of intricacy, while sounding quite gloomy and dark. Davis, being the clever fellow he is then brightens the gloomy and darkness almost straight away with the following track, ‘Pan Piper.’ The piece is a woodwind feature, bringing a bright and summer-y like feel to the table, while once the rhythm section kicks in; it brings a more jazz felt vibe to the table.

The concluding two tracks are probably the strongest, and my favourite. ‘Saeta’ is counted in with an almost straight rhythm, while the horn section accompanies the drum line. This track is really a feature track for Miles, as he is at his near best with his almost perfect articulation, and intonation with the rest of the band. It almost feels like Davis is in your lounge room playing right in front of you. After the initial horn chorus, the piece becomes almost depressing. Though the trumpet work is so impeccable, it’s almost impossible to feel numb listening to it. ‘Solea’ is obviously Spanish felt, but takes a more direct approach, with the rhythm section being so heavily influenced by the Spanish based background, while the horns play with wistful, melancholy ambience through the chart. ‘Solea’ is a much brighter felt piece as the band plays a get-on-your-feet-and-dance-the-night away tune. Davis could not have ended on a much brighter note.

Sketches of Spain may not able to live up to the brilliance of Kind of Blue or the popularity of Bitches Brew, but it definitely makes a strong stand for itself. By changing Spanish cultural tunes into amazing jazz, Davis has followed the line that Percy Grainger took so long ago with orchestral music. Though reading about these cultural links is one thing, but when it comes to the music, there is no substitute but to listen.



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Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Douglas
August 19th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Basically a track by track in disguise.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 19th 2009


17213 Comments


Great, great album

Digging: Inigo Kennedy - Vaudeville

Douglas
August 19th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

That, it definitely is.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 19th 2009


17213 Comments


the brilliance of Kind of Blue or the popularity of Bitches Brew

should be switched imo since Kind of Blue is his most popular album and Bitches Brew is his best.

Douglas
August 19th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The reason I said that is because Bitches Brew is the only Miles Davis to break into the Billboard charts. Though I know what you mean.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 19th 2009


17213 Comments


Learn something new everyday.

Douglas
August 19th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

That you do

liledman
August 19th 2009


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review, this is next on my to-buy-list of Davis albums, then it's Bitches Brew.

thebhoy
Emeritus
August 19th 2009


4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was going to review this, but didn't. I need Bitches Brew now.

Fyi, the original piece of Concierto de Arenjuez is by the Spanish composer Rodrigo. I suggest listening to that as well, you will appreciate Gil Evans arrangement, and Davis' playing even more after that.

timbo8
August 19th 2009


618 Comments


I really should listen to this.

Douchebag
August 19th 2009


3624 Comments


This guy gets a hell of a lot of respect on this site, I should check him out.

thebhoy
Emeritus
August 19th 2009


4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

^ What you meant to say was: This guy gets a hell of a lot of respect from EVERYONE, because he's one of the greatest musicians of all time.

Douglas
August 20th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

^ Exactly.

Yeah, should've mentioned Evans in the review ah well.

Shall check it out! ta

Douglas
August 20th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nice review, this is next on my to-buy-list of Davis albums, then it's Bitches Brew.

Thanks, and yes definitely get this!

I really should listen to this.

Well if you haven't listened to Kind of Blue, listen to that first, to warm you up into it.



Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2009


17213 Comments


hey Doug, did you ever check out Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds?

Douglas
August 20th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

NO! Never got round to it sorry! I shall add it onto my list. Thanks for the reminder.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2009


17213 Comments


no hurry. Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton, Barry Altschul and Sam Rivers should be motivation enough.

Douglas
August 20th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Damn straight

thebhoy
Emeritus
August 20th 2009


4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Dave Holland ftw. He's my favourite, I have 3 of his albums up for reviewing, gotta get crackin' on those.

Douglas
August 20th 2009


9102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Better get on it, since I am intrigued to read.



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