Miles Davis
Sketches of Spain


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
November 16th, 2006 | 32 replies | 15,615 views


Release Date: 1960 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Miles takes Gil Evans' arrangements and compositions and puts his own jazzy soloing over them. Backed with more of a wind ensemble than a jazz band, Sketches of Spain is a blend of styles that is still unforgettable today.

How do I begin about Miles Davis? There is so much to say about the man. He may be the single most important man in jazz history, alongside of greats like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. Two decades of jazz run straight through the evolution of his recordings and he never looked back on his earlier days of bebop. Taking a listen to Miles’ style of playing, he sounds so different from other trumpet players. He played so melodically, using long, legato notes and rarely using fast fingers or an extremely high range to show off his talent. It is his simplicity in rhythmic structure that made him so brilliant and accessible. His beautiful tone fits Sketches of Spain better than possibly any of his other albums, simply because the atmosphere revolves around him. Here, there are no splashy swing beats and rapid bass walking. Sketches of Spain works as an orchestral, beautiful, flowing tribute to Spain, and is one of Miles’ best compilations with Gil Evans.

Sketches of Spain is much more than a jazz album. Instruments include bassoon, French horn, and bass clarinet, some of the furthest instruments from jazz possible. With 27 musicians, the album puts Miles Davis in the grandest and most epic project he ever participated in. Although only five tracks long, Sketches of Spain spans over 40 minutes of slow, smooth music. Miles constantly takes the lead, playing either on trumpet or flugelhorn and utilizing his style to its greatest capacity. The orchestral swells and climatic pseudo-jazz shout choruses mixed together create one of the most original sounds ever. Amazingly, two out of five songs are not originals. The epic of the album and the most famous song from the Gil Evans/Miles Davis era, Concierto de Aranjuez, is an original composition from Joaquin Rodrigo. Taken at a slow adagio, the song grows and falls brilliantly, climaxing at huge trumpet choruses. Miles, as always, leads along the softer sections, using his trumpet for this song. The Spanish atmosphere sets itself perfectly, making one of the best Miles songs ever as well as the standout on the album. With Miles’ chops in full form, the trumpet choruses never sounded better.

The album moves along through a sequence of shorter, almost pop song length songs. The jazziest song on the album, Will O’ the Wisp, is the other Gil Evans arrangement, the last three songs being original compositions. Will O’ the Wisp features muted trumpet and a French horn backing. The unique voicing makes the song an interesting listen, but it still seems a bit unforgettable in comparison to the rest of the album. The Pan Piper keeps the French horn and it plays some themes from Will O’ the Wisp but makes the flute the main unique instrument. Saeta serves as a Spanish trumpet fanfare, an Evans composition and certainly a unique one. Overall, the middle three tracks all meld together as a quiet, trumpet-led affair. Finally, the album reaches Solea, the closer and an epic song even in comparison to Concierto de Aranjuez. The song’s main groove feels almost like background music to a James Bond movie. It’s sneaky, quiet, and intense, yet still not distracting. The song slowly increases in volume while Miles solos throughout the entire song. The backing orchestra plays background fills throughout the entire song, and it sustains for over twelve minutes simply because of Miles’ brilliant soloing.

Overall, Sketches of Spain is a quiet affair, much like most of Miles’ work. What makes Sketches of Spain so special is the styles and arrangements of Gil Evans. Miles is simply the performer on this album, but none of the compositions or arrangements are his. Gil Evans never receives enough credit for this album. He masterfully made Concierto de Aranjuez his own and now that version of the song will be forever remembered as the definitive version. He put unique and new styles into his original compositions, a perfect blend of classical and jazz that Miles makes so relaxing. Although the album drags a bit in the middle with the anti-climatic The Pan Piper, it stands as an oddity in the Miles Davis discography, a small break from jazz while he gathered together his second sextet.

Recommended Tracks:
Concierto de Aranjuez
Will O’ the Wisp
Solea



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user ratings (325)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
doug (4.5)
“I'll play it first and tell you what it is later.” – Miles Davis...

Kingadamx (5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 16th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More of a track by track and shorter, but I got all the general statements I could make out there.

Zmev
November 16th 2006



983 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Its a nice record but I've never gotten into it really.

MrKite
November 17th 2006



5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've got Kind of Blue and I really like, think I should get this next?
Great review, too.

The Jungler
November 17th 2006



4827 Comments


Good review, Miles is the man.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 17th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kite, get Filles de Kilimanjaro, it's his best recording in my opinion.

ohcleverhansyou
November 17th 2006



885 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a good album, the opening track is one of my favorite jazz songs. This Message Edited On 11.17.06

MrKite
November 17th 2006



5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kite, get Filles de Kilimanjaro, it's his best recording in my opinion

Thanks^.
Pan Piper is a great song.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 17th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think it's the worst on the album, but still, this is a Miles Davis album.

LF96
November 18th 2006



97 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Far as I know, there are no originals (as in, written by either Evans or Davis) on this album. I though all the songs were either existing compositions or Spanish traditional themes... I might be wrong though.
Anyway, this album is really good, as you said this is the perfect album for Miles' tone and playing style. On other albums he has to be surrounded by other great musicians to really shine, I think. Nice Review too, btw.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
November 18th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No, all the sources I've checked say that Gil composed the last 3 songs.

FR33L0RD
June 11th 2007



1458 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very good Album
Concierto de Aranjuez & Solea
are amazing tracksThis Message Edited On 06.11.07

Yield
June 17th 2007



626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I really want this. Chamber jazz is one of my favorite jazz eras.

Zebra
Moderator
July 24th 2007



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This is such a strange album, the addition of flutes and woodwinds don't really do much for me.


Fort23
July 24th 2007



2469 Comments


I love this album. I dont know why but something about it just clicks with me. You'd probably like this Yield I would suggest getting it.This Message Edited On 07.24.07

lunchforthesky
November 8th 2008



1039 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like this better than Kind of Blue sometimes. It has more variety of sounds. One day I will drive around rural Spain listening to this.

cirq
October 23rd 2009



9257 Comments


yeah, this man is amazing

Chrisjon89
November 20th 2010



2962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome vibe. Love this album - I picked it up ahead of Kind of Blue and a handful of others mainly because of the price tag, but no regrets.

Digging: Elizabeth Rose - Elizabeth Rose

Ire
December 30th 2012



41453 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

pfft rules

oltnabrick
December 30th 2012



29282 Comments


Pfft Bitches Brew

Digging: Ben Frost - A U R O R A

wacknizzle
December 30th 2012



11892 Comments


Well I should check this MD album then. The album name has had me intrigued recently, I've been trying to find more jazz.

Digging: Fall of Efrafa - Inle



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