Thursday, May 28, 2009

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "Sketches of Spain"

Miles Davis

The famously restless Miles Davis was never one to sit on his laurels and milk successes until they were dry. Which is why, after defining modal jazz on 1959's masterpiece Kind of Blue, he switched gears and recorded the heavily-orchestrated, flamenco-inspired Sketches of Spain with arranger/composer/conductor Gil Evans.

While the two albums have in common a somber tone, in terms of style and tempo, they are worlds apart. Whereas Kind of Blue swings and grooves, the exotic, moody Sketches of Spain slowly unfolds, with Evans' sweeping Technicolor orchestration setting the pace and Davis' hypnotic trumpet floating in and out and around the lush strings and vibrant brass. The result is a hypnotic, meditative piece of music that found Davis once again defying and expanding the barriers of jazz music.

This two-disc set includes the original album, alternate takes, complementary tracks from other Davis albums and the only live performance of the album's centerpiece, "Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)." Jazz nerds may balk at the lack of previously unreleased material, but this smart presentation is about context, and taken together the 17 tracks tell the unabridged musical story of Evans' and Davis' memorable collaboration.

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