Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain: Legacy Edition 2-CD Set – Arr. & Conducted by Gil Evans, Columbia/Legacy 88697 43949 2, CD1: 45:36. CD2: 70:10 ***** [Release date: May 26, 09]:
Sketches of Spain (1959) was the third and probably the very best of the original Davis/Gil Evans collaborations (following on the heels of Miles Ahead and Porgy and Bess in 1957 and 58). The original 1960 LP release had only five tracks, with the opening Adagio transcription from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez its highlight and perhaps the most successful mix of the classical and jazz worlds that has ever been accomplished. The masterful arrangement inspired an entire album based on a Spanish/Andalusian and flamenco theme. Gil Evans provided exactly the right orchestral settings to work with the unique talents of the great trumpeter, and the results made history.
Sketches of Spain has been reissued many times, as with many of Miles’ albums. It was one of the great Davis/Evans collaborations featured in the massive “Miles Davis/Gil Evans Complete Columbia Recordings” set (with the maddening metal binding that makes it next to impossible to read all the notes, let alone extract the CDs).The single CD and SACD reissues added three bonus tracks, starting with the oddly-titled Song of Our Country, which was recorded at the original session but not released until 20 years later. It is a re-working in flamenco-influenced style of part of one of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras. The other two additional tracks were alternate takes of parts of the Concierto de Aranjuez.
This new remastered double-disc package moves the two Concierto takes to a second CD and adds other alternate and rehearsal takes to total over 70 minutes on the disc. While tracks 2 thru 8 are different takes of the Concierto and Song of Our Country, all 11 tracks on the second CD are tied in some way or other with the French composer Leo Delibes, who composed the short, very melodic song Maids of Cadiz back in the late 19th century. The Maids of Cadiz was originally released as part of the Miles Ahead album, and was the very first work Gil Evans did in adapting a composition of Spanish-French origin for an orchestral collaboration with Miles. The penultimate track on this CD is the first release of a 1961 live concert performance of The Concierto de Aranjuez, given in Carnegie Hall. It may not have the highly-polished studio sonics of the original, but it is really a superior performance in many ways, and makes this double album a most worthy offering even for those who will find most of the tracks duplicate what they already own. The final track on this disc is a 9 1/2-minute small group number by Miles dedicated to the producer of these wonderful sessions, Teo Macero.
The double disc has a few other worthwhile additions to it: There is a new essay on the project by composer/conductor/author/educator/performer Gunther Schuller. He had played French horn on Birth of the Cool and the Porgy and Bess recording sessions. He also coined the term “third stream” for the works he and other composers created mixing jazz and classical ideas in the 50s and 60s. Ironically, these Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaborations strike me as more successful musically than any of the third stream music of that period. Another addition in this set is a bonus digital PDF file on CD1, which features rare photos, newspaper clippings and previously-unpublished documents which relate to the recording sessions. I compared the vinyl, SACD and different CD reissues of some of the Concierto, and found little difference amongst them. The SACD was stereo only and mastered in the first years of the SACD era, when often little attention was paid to getting the utmost resolution out of the master tapes, or not even using the original master tapes. The newly-remastered CD set actually seems to have a more extended low bass end than previous efforts.
– John Henry