GIL EVANS (Originals & arrangements): Sketches of Spain – Nicholas Payton – BMF Records BMF002 [9/24/13] (www.ams-artists.com) *****:
(Nicholas Payton, trumpet; Vicente Archer, doublebass; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Daniel Sadownick, percussion; Basel Symphony Orchestra/ Franziskus Theurillat)
It’s now been 50 years since the great combo of Miles Davis and Gil Evans did the original Sketches of Spain, which has been reissued countless times now, including in various audiophile formats. It is probably the most accessible album Miles ever did, and appeals to a wide cross-section of listeners. There have been various re-performances of the work mixing jazz, classical and world music over the years, including one Miles himself did at the Montreux Jazz Festival shortly before his passing, and one at the Portland Jazz Festival earlier this year with trumpeter Thara Memory in the Miles role. It’s even been suggested that the work is not really jazz at all, but something else. Evans and Davis received a Grammy in 1961 for Best Original Jazz Composition for Sketches of Spain.
There is considerable difference of opinion online about this latest version of Sketches of Spain. Some think it to be a great tribute, while others feel Nicholas Payton doesn’t come close to the depth or esthetics of Miles. I feel it’s a great CD, although I’m certainly not chucking my Sony Legacy two-CD reissue set with all the rehearsals and other tracks.
Payton says in his notes that they took the work to some places quite different from what Miles and Gil did 50 years ago. The primary differences I heard were a more center-stage pickup of Payton’s trumpet and a lot more varied improvising at certain points in the score. It almost makes one think Miles was being a bit lazy at some points in the original. There is also much more bass end on this new recording, which makes the original actually sound a bit thin. The whole work is around 40 minutes and Payton’s trumpet is heard during much more of it than was Miles on the original. One hears more of the fine details of Evan’s arrangements and compositions. The 19-person Basel Symphony does a fine job supporting Payton.
The opening and longest track is Evan’s great arrangement of the second movement of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Evans originally said they hadn’t intended to do a Spanish album—only this Rodrigo arrangement. But Evans and Miles began listening to some Spanish folk music and eventually it ended up being a Spanish album. The second track is taken from Falla’s ballet Love the Magician, ”Will o’ the Wisp,” again arranged by Evans. The remaining three tracks are all Evans originals, created to spotlight the Flugelhorn and trumpet of Miles thruout.
In addition to the fine sonics and thrilling performance the thick note booklet features a detailed and interesting question and answer session with Payton.
TrackList: Concierto de Aranjuez, Will O’ the Wisp, The Pan Piper, Saeta, Solea