Miles Dewey Davis III..in a class all by himself. This blog is dedicated to him, and to those that appreciate his legacy.

Hello Fellow Jazz Aficianados! Enjoy this album by Miles, and the accompanying info. According to Wiki: Sketches of Spain was recorded between November 1959 and March 1960. The album pairs Davis with arranger and composer Gil Evans, with whom he had collaborated on several other projects, on a program of compositions largely derived from the Spanish folk tradition. (An extended version of the second movement of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez is also included, as well as a song called "Will o' the Wisp", from the ballet El amor brujo by Manuel de Falla.) The album is considered to be one of the most accessible albums of Davis's career: the most recent edition of the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD describes it as "elevated light music". Less improvisational than much other jazz, contemporaries suggested that Sketches of Spain was something other than jazz. Davis replied (according to Rolling Stone magazine), "It's music, and I like it".

In 2003, the album was ranked number 356 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Sketches of Spain cover


The Biography of Miles Davis

Miles Davis was one of the greatest visionaries and most important figures in jazz history. He was born in a well-to-do family in East St. Louis. He became a local phenom and toured locally with Billy Eckstine's band while he was in high school. He moved to New York under the guise of attending the Julliard School of Music.

However, his real intentions were to hook up with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He quickly climbed up the ranks while learning from Bird and Diz and became the trumpet player for Charlie Parker's group for nearly 3 years. His first attempt at leading a group came in 1949 and was the first of many occurrences in which he would take jazz in a new direction. Along with arranger Gil Evans, he created a nonet (9 members) that used non-traditional instruments in a jazz setting, such as French horn and Tuba. He invented a more subtle, yet still challenging style that became known as "cool jazz." This style influenced a large group of musicians who played primarily on the west coast and further explored this style.

The recordings of the nonet were packaged by Capitol records and released under the name The Birth of the Cool. The group featured Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, and Max Roach, among others. This was one of the first instances in which Miles demonstrated a recurring move that angered some: he brought in musicians regardless of race. He once said he'd give a guy with green skin and "polka-dotted breath" a job, as long as they could play sax as well as Lee Konitz. After spending 4 years fighting a heroin addiction, he conquered it, inspired by the discipline of the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.





“It's always been a gift with me, hearing music the way I do. I don't know where it comes from, it's just there and I don't question it.”
- Miles Davis


After a triumphant performance of Thelonious Monk's classic 'Round Midnight at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, Miles became a hot commodity. He put together a permanent quintet that featured John Coltrane, Red Garland, "Philly Joe" Jones, and Paul Chambers. Miles had a gift for hearing the music in his head, and putting together a band of incredible musicians whose contrasting styles could result in meeting the end result he was looking for. He later added a 6th member, Cannonball Adderly and replaced Jones and Garland with Jimmy Cobb and Bill Evans. In the late 50s, his groups popularized modal jazz and changed the direction of jazz again. He made 2 more classics with the Sextet during this time, Milestones and Kind of Blue. After this time, most of his group left to form their own groups. This was a constant during Miles' career--he brought in the best up-and-coming musicians and after playing in his band and getting established, they formed their own groups. Among the bandleaders to have come from Miles band include: John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Red Garland, "Philly" Jo Jones, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, (Shorter and Zawinul would go on to form the fusion group Weather Report) Keith Jarrett, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, John McGlaughlin, Chick Corea, John Scofield, Kenny Garrett, Mike Stern, and Bob Berg.

During this time, Miles and Gil Evans collaborated again and made another unique record, Sketches of Spain, in which Miles plays Spanish Flamenco music backed by an orchestra. His tone is so beautiful and clear, it almost sounds like his trumpet is singing. After experimenting with different groups for 3 years, Miles, who was in his late 30s (old by jazz standards), fused his group with young players in order to bring in fresh ideas. In 1963, he put together his 2nd legendary quintet: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and 16 year old drumming protege Tony Williams. For 5 years, this group pushed the limits of freedom and made some fiery jazz! In 1968, Miles brought in Joe Zawinul as a 2nd keyboardist and around this time, started experimenting with electric instruments. He made the classic In a Silent Way and a year later, he added British guitarist John McGloughlin and replaced Tony Williams (who left to form his own band) with Jack DeJohnette, and he took jazz in yet a whole new direction with the record Bitches Brew, in which he fused Rock Music with jazz and went heavily into electric music. This record fired the first shot in the fusion revolution which took jazz to a whole new level of popularity.

In the early 1970s, Miles kept experimenting with the electric instruments and fusing more funk into his music. In 1976, a combination of bad health, cocaine use, and lack of inspiration caused Miles to go into a 5-year retirement. He conquered his cocaine habit, received new inspiration and returned in 1981 and made a series of records that I haven't heard. He did keep pushing music, as he was not one to rest on his laurels and play his old music. He started experimenting more with synthesizers and using studio techniques in his recordings. He won a series of Grammy Awards during this decade and continued turning out sidemen, such as Garrett, Stern, and Berg, listed above. Miles Davis died in 1991.



Sketches of Spain
Miles Davis's impact on jazz is almost incalculable. From his early days as a sideman for Charlie Parker, through his groundbreaking Birth of the Cool sessions, to his stunning small groups of the '50s and '60s, through to his electric renaissance, the trumpeter, bandleader, and composer has left a deep mark on all who came after. He is one of jazz's true giants. Sketches of Spain, though one of Davis's most commercially successful sessions, is also one of his most controversial. Re-teaming with arranger and composer Gil Evans, who played such a pivotal role in Davis's 1949 Birth of the Cool recordings, Davis recorded a series of large group albums beginning in the late '50s, including Porgy and Bess, Miles Ahead, and Quiet Nights. Sketches of Spain, with its emphasis on flamenco, rich orchestrations, and relaxed tempos, is certainly one of Davis's most mellow recordings (he even works out on fluegelhorn), and proved to have broad appeal. To some critics, however, the project was "elevated elevator music." An expanded version of the album, featuring alternative tracks and unreleased material, was issued in 1997 by Columbia Legacy. --Fred Goodman


Among instrumentalists, the collaborations of Miles Davis and Gil Evans are often controversial. Though people universally acknowledge that Evans was a genius as an arranger, it's not easy for those who want a full out hard-bop blowing session to adjust to the cool colors and laid back aesthetic of these works. For many; the most difficult of the Davis/Evans collaborations is this third one in the series. While Miles Ahead and Porgy and Bess both have obvious roots in big band writing, Sketches of Spain delves into material that was generally not in the mainstream at the time. That it does so with subtlety and style is something that can often be overlooked by those who wish that Miles would blow more.
Sketches of Spain has its genesis in the slow movement of the Rodrigo Concierto di Arguanez, one of the most beloved pieces of classical music out of Spain. Both Miles and Gil Evans were taken with the piece when they were introduced to it and it forms the centerpiece of the album, and the number that seems to register the greatest number of complaints. Purists in the classical world dislike it's fast and loose treatment of the original work, and in fact, Rodrigo was on record as detesting the final product. And jazz musicians felt the work to be pretentious, with not enough room for Miles to solo, and not enough out and out swing. There was also a feeling that the work was just blatantly copied from it's origins and that any brilliance in the work was due to Rodrigo, not to Evans.
A careful hearing, especially a side-by-side comparison with the original Concierto, can dispel much of the criticism of this work. Evans does not merely imitate the piece; he imaginatively rethinks it for wind ensemble. Instead of the spare English Horn and strings with which Rodrigo opens the work, Evans creates a shimmering bed of castanets and harp, over which he layers low flutes and French horns an muted brass, moving in a dense carpet of parallel fourths. While the main points of the original form are followed, with Miles taking mostly the guitar parts, there are many sections that illustrate the genius of Evans, the arranger. Particularly impressive is Evans rethinking of the guitar cadenzas. For the first cadenza Evans contrasts Miles in his dark low register, with beautifully balanced chords in the flutes and low brass, characterized by unusual voicings that include tense dissonances at the top of the chord. Also stunning is the original section that Evans uses to replace the second cadenza. The bass begins an understated vamp. Miles solos over it with his typical cool understatement and the orchestra builds to the climax of the work.

The other cuts on the album are even more understated, but also highly original. Two particularly stand out. Saeta is inspired by a traditional Holy Week procession in which an effigy is paraded through a town, interrupted by a long mournful solo by Davis. The orchestration in this part is stunning. Evans layers martial percussion, a faint bassoon solo and a brass band against Miles' beautiful trumpet. The effect is a jazz tone poem, in the best tradition of the Ellington Orchestra.

The other standout on the album is Solea. This work is a long, beautiful Miles solo over a constantly changing orchestral vamp. Evans shows considerable ingenuity in constantly varying the rather static two-chord vamp, and Miles is given just one scale to improvise on. Though this album came out after Kind of Blue, it was recorded several months earlier, and you can see the influence that Evans had on Miles' revolutionary small group album.

The re-mastering of this album is terrific. The clarity by which you can hear the delicate sounds such as the castanets and the harp is truly lovely. It compares favorably to the old LP version. My one gripe with this reissue, which I have with most of the Columbia reissue series, is that the filler material is basically not worthy to be released. On this one, the filler includes a Brazilian character piece, which belongs in the filler to the Quiet Nights album instead, and two alternative versions of parts of the Concierto. Though last pieces have some documentary value, they are both vastly inferior to the final product and are ultimately annoying to listen to. I would prefer to have the album as it was finally released and save this sort of material for boxed set compilations, even if that means I only get 40 minutes worth of music.
In conclusion, this is a classic album, worthy to join the other Evans/Davis collaborations. It even pushes the art of jazz arranging farther than the other records. And the influence of this work on the history of jazz arranging and composition can't be overestimated. Don Sebesky, Bill Holman and numerous other large group arrangers continually show their debt to the genius of Evans. But, for those who want to hear Miles blow; stick with the quintet and sextet albums from this period. Sketches of Spain does feature Miles, but the real star of the album is the arranging.

Website: http://milesdavis.com

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Replies to This Discussion

I love Miles & his sound. One of my personal favs "Teo", which was done as a tribute to producer Teo Macero, from the "Someday My Prince Will Come" album. Being an ex Sax man my heart throbbs when hearing Trane blowing away on this piece. Miles N Trane...Yeah
Miles Davis was a jazz pioneer and my all time favorites. Never has it mentioned of his marriage to Cicely Tyson (1981-1988). Great article.
Edie, Your contributions are amazing. Keep up the good work...and keep on Bopping..LOL Peace, Saint
Thank You Saint!!! Boppin it is! These youngsters got some gold for heritage! LOL
I like when the harp comes in on that first track....superb!

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Introspection

Spotlight | Maze

  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue



The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 


As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.

 

The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) yahoo.com and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
   
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
   
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)
 



Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪

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