Artist: Miles Davis
Title: “Sketches of Spain”
Format: Digital (Spotify)
Coming less than one year after the legendary “Kind of Blue,” Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” feels like a tonal descendent of “Blue,” incorporating many of the themes of modal and cool jazz into the mix.
But, as the title suggests, Latin jazz is an influence. In the towering opening number, a cover of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” Davis peppers the performance with a precise flugelhorn playing while arranger and composer Gil Evans turns it into a third-stream adagio piece, bringing classical elements to the mix.
While Davis’ control is the most remarkable point of his playing through most of his career, it’s particularly impressive on “Aranjuez.” The Latin flavor isn’t played for overdramatic effect, either – it’s there, but it’s not a dominant force.
The remaining two-thirds of “Sketches” are strong, but “Aranjuez” sets a benchmark to which the rest of the record aims, but doesn’t quite hit. That isn’t to say that it’s poor, but more to suggest the greatness of the opening cut.
Ever the adventurer, Davis stretched into Latin themes with “Sketches” with the same care and acumen he brought to so many of his other efforts.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.