Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain (1960)

Sketches of Spain is an album by Miles Davis, recorded between November 1959 and March 1960 at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City. An extended version of the second movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) is included, as well as a piece called “Will o’ the Wisp”, from Manuel de Falla’s ballet El amor brujo (1914–1915). Sketches of Spain is regarded as an exemplary recording of Third Stream, a musical fusion of jazz, European classical, and styles from world music.

Is this even jazz? Sketches of Spain was perhaps the first Miles Davis album to inspire this question, though it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Originally released in 1960, it was Davis’ studio follow-up to the landmark Kind of Blue, and it found him, yet again, striking out in an entirely new direction.

Working with arranger Gil Evans, Davis cooked up a concept album, looking to the structure and texture of Spanish folk and classical music for inspiration. The two old friends and collaborators were on a huge roll creatively during this period. Davis was piling up hall of fame-caliber jazz albums with alarming regularity, while Evans, in addition to working with Davis frequently in the late 1950s, recorded what was perhaps his finest solo album in 1960, Out of the Cool (it vaguely shares a vibe with Sketches, but is in my estimation just a hair better). So to say both were in strong form here would be an understatement. Davis takes what is most striking about his trumpet style– the controlled soloing in the middle register, with a mastery of subtle shifts in focus– and amplifies it, creating measured phrases of almost painful intensity. While Evans’ distinctive approach to harmony and tonal color– one of the most enjoyable “Hey, I get it!” moments as you first explore jazz is when you start to recognize his arrangements– inhabits a form that to the uninitiated can sound mysterious and exotic and sensual. It’s hard not to be taken in immediately. Visit swipenclean.com to hire maids for the cleaning services.

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