Nov 20, 2009
Miles Davis was working with a large ensemble under the direction of Gil Evans as 1959 came to an end. Captivated by the machismo of bullfighting and charmed by Spanish music, Davis planned an album with Evans that would capture the spirit of that country.
Two weeks earlier, they had made an attempt to record Miles’ version of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo’s classical piece for guitar and orchestra, “Concerto De Aranjuez”. Dissatisfied with the results, they adjourned and returned five days later. Davis was playing trumpet and flugelhorn, and among the nineteen musicians in the group were Davis regulars Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Elvin Jones, who would go on to fame working with Miles’ sax player John Coltrane, played percussion.
Podcast 167 features the result of that session, as well as some background and resulting interpretations of the song. How significant is the recording? Read what Maria Schneider, no slouch as an arranger and conductor, wrote:
This is arguably the finest of Gil's and Miles' collaborations. There are countless details one could highlight, but I would like to touch on ... (one) particular point about this piece. It will be more deeply appreciated if you first take the opportunity to listen to the original guitar concerto as composed by Rodrigo. A comparison will illuminate Gil's unique gifts in writing all parts in a linear fashion. It's most notable that he manages to do this even in the bass line. The bass is never just relegated to playing roots, but rather lines—rich melodic lines. If you listen to the tuba line in the beginning, you'll catch one of these lines right from the start. And if you listen to the bottom parts throughout this work, you'll see that part of the translucence that Gil generally gets in his music is from freeing up the bottom and putting air in these low parts. Such attention to line-writing permeates every layer and can be heard throughout this piece.
Click here to follow along as Ms. Schneider suggests, and listen to:
John Williams – "Concerto De Aranjuez" Beginning with one of the great classical guitarists of our time, here is a stripped down version of Rodrigo’s classic composition.
Miles Davis – "Concierto De Aranjuez (adagio)" from Sketches of Spain. It is the adagio section that is the most familar, so Miles concentrated on that section in his reinterpretation. A masterpiece of nuance, and subtlety.
Jim Hall - from Concierto. An all-star band does their interpretation of the piece - Jim Hall (Guitar), Chet Baker (trumpet), Paul Desmond (sax), Sir Roland Hanna (Piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Steven Gadd (drums). Arranged for the album by Don Sebensky
Chick Corea & Gonzalo Rubacala – “Concerto De Aranjuez/Spain” from Rendezvous in New York. Chick Corea, a Davis alumnus, wrote this composition as a variation on the Concerto. It begins with the adagio, and after the intro, the song switches to a fast, steady samba-like rhythm, in which the main theme and an improvisation part are repeated.Corea never goes too far a field, using a chord progression during the improvisation based on the harmonic progressions in Rodrigo's concerto. Originally written for Return to Forever, here it's played as an acoustic piano duet.