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Sketches of Spain

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Sketches of Spain
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 18, 1960 (1960-07-18)[1]
RecordedNovember 15 & 20, 1959 and March 10, 1960
StudioColumbia 30th Street (New York City)
ProducerTeo Macero
Miles Davis chronology
Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
Sketches of Spain
Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet

Sketches of Spain is a studio album by the jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis. It was released on 18 July 1960 through Columbia Records. The recording took place between November 1959 and March 1960 at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City. An extended version of the second movement of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) is included, as well as a piece called "Will o' the Wisp", from Manuel de Falla's ballet El amor brujo (1914–1915). Sketches of Spain is regarded as an exemplary recording of third stream, a musical fusion of jazz, European classical, and styles from world music.[2]



Davis's wife Frances Davis insisted he accompany her to a performance by flamenco dancer Roberto Iglesias. Inspired by the performance, Davis bought every flamenco album he could get at Colony Records shop in New York City.[5]

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. Evans explained:

[We] hadn't intended to make a Spanish album. We were just going to do the Concierto de Aranjuez. A friend of Miles gave him the only album in existence with that piece. He brought it back to New York and I copied the music off the record because there was no score. By the time we did that, we began to listen to other folk music, music played in clubs in Spain... So we learned a lot from that and it ended up being a Spanish album. The Rodrigo, the melody is so beautiful. It's such a strong song. I was so thrilled with that.[6]

The folk songs in the album were inspired by recordings made by Alan Lomax in Galicia and Andalusia, which were released in 1955 by Columbia Masterworks.[7][8]

Concierto de Aranjuez


The opening piece, taking up almost half the record, is an arrangement by Evans and Davis of the adagio movement of Concierto de Aranjuez, a concerto for guitar by the contemporary Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Following the faithful introduction of the concerto's guitar melody on flugelhorn, Evans' arrangement turns into a "quasi-symphonic, quasi-jazz world of sound", according to his biographer.[6] The middle of the piece contains a "chorus" by Evans unrelated to the concerto but "echoed" in the other pieces on the album.[6] The original melody then reappears in a darker mode.

Davis plays flugelhorn and later trumpet, attempting to connect the various settings musically.[9] Davis commented at rehearsal, "The thing I have to do now is make things connect, make them mean something in what I play around it".[9] Davis thought the concerto's adagio melody was "so strong" that "the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets", and Evans concurred.[9]

According to Davis' biographer Chambers, the contemporary critical response to the arrangement was not surprising, especially given the scarcity of anything resembling a jazz rhythm in most of the piece. Martin Williams wrote that "the recording is something of a curiosity and a failure, as I think a comparison with any good performance of the movement by a classical guitarist would confirm". The composer Rodrigo was also not impressed, but royalties from the arrangement brought him "a lot of money", according to Evans.[9]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]
MusicHound Jazz4.5/5[12]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz[13]
Pitchfork Media10/10[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[17]

In a contemporary review for DownBeat, Bill Mathieu hailed Sketches of Spain as one of the 20th century's most important musical works so far and a highly intellectual yet passionate record. He found Evans's compositions extremely well crafted and Davis's playing intelligently devised, concluding in his review, "if there is to be a new jazz, a shape of things to come, then this is the beginning."[3] Replying to suggestions that Sketches of Spain was something other than jazz, Davis said "it's music, and I like it."[19] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J. D. Considine called it "a work of unparalleled grace and lyricism,"[17] while Q magazine said it "took orchestral jazz in a new direction."[16] Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic about the record and recalled being a young listener when it was released: "In 1960 [it] catapulted Davis into the favor of the kind of man who reads Playboy and initiated in me one phase of the disillusionment with jazz that resulted in my return to rock and roll."[20]

For Sketches of Spain, Evans and Davis won the 1961 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Composition of More Than Five Minutes Duration.[21] The album was ranked number 358 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[19][22]

Track listing

Side one
1."Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)"Joaquín Rodrigo16:19
2."Will o' the Wisp"Manuel de Falla3:47
Side two
1."The Pan Piper (Alborada de Vigo)"Traditional, Gil Evans3:52
2."Saeta"Traditional, Gil Evans5:06
3."Solea"Gil Evans12:15
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–5 on CD reissues.
1997 reissue bonus tracks
6."Song of Our Country"Heitor Villa-Lobos; arranged by Gil Evans3:23
7."Concierto de Aranjuez" (alternate take; part 1)Joaquín Rodrigo12:04
8."Concierto de Aranjuez" (alternate take; part 2 ending)Joaquín Rodrigo3:33

Song title meanings

  1. Concierto de Aranjuez was written about the gardens at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez.
  2. El amor brujo is often translated as "The Bewitched Love." It is a ballet by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.
  3. "The Pan Piper" refers to the instrument (pan flute) played by a pig's castrator and knife grinder and the melody he used to play when arriving to villages in Galicia. "Alborada" is a traditional folk style from Galicia.
  4. "Saeta" is a type of religious song mostly sung during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions in Spain.
  5. "Solea" is a form of flamenco music.



Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[23]
sales since 1997
Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[25] Platinum 861,000[24]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Miles Davis.com
  2. ^ a b Kanzler, George. "Miles Revisited: Sketches of Spain (50th Anniversary Edition) & Miles Ahead Live". All About Jazz. Retrieved February 23, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Alkyer, Frank; Enright, Ed; Koransky, Jason, eds. (2007). The Miles Davis Reader. Hal Leonard. pp. 213–215. ISBN 978-1423430766.
  4. ^ Shera, Michael (October 22, 2020). "JJ 10/60: Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain". Jazz Journal. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Gail (May 26, 2001). "Wife and Muse, Frances Davis Recalls Life with Miles" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 113, no. 21. p. 68. Retrieved May 19, 2024 – via World Radio History.
  6. ^ a b c Crease, Stephanie Stein (2003). Gil Evans: Out of the Cool: His Life and Music. Chicago Review Press; p. 207. ISBN 9781556524936
  7. ^ Szwed, John (2011). The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax. London, UK: Arrow Books. p. 275. ISBN 9781448107384.
  8. ^ Lomax, Alan (ed.) (1955). The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music – Volume XIII: Spain. Columbia Masterworks.
  9. ^ a b c d Chambers, Jack (1998). Milestones: The Music And Times Of Miles Davis. Da Capo Press; pp. 10–11.
  10. ^ Jurek, Thom. Sketches of Spain at AllMusic. Retrieved 15 September 2005.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Miles Davis". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  12. ^ Holtje, Steve; Lee, Nancy Ann, eds. (1998). "Miles Davis". MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. Music Sales Corporation. ISBN 0825672538.
  13. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1992). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP and Cassette. Penguin Books. p. 272. ISBN 0-14-015364-0.
  14. ^ Schreiber, Ryan (October 1997). "Miles Davis Sketches of Spain > Album Review". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 3 November 2005. Retrieved 30 January 2006.
  15. ^ Murphy, Sean (June 23, 2009). "Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain (Legacy Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Review: Sketches of Spain". Q. London: 134. January 2000.
  17. ^ a b Considine, J.D. (2004). "Miles Davis". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 214–217. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  18. ^ Fisher, Tyler (November 16, 2006). "Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain (album review 2)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  19. ^ a b Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "356 | Sketches of Spain - Miles Davis". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Retrieved 25 May 2006.
  20. ^ Christgau, Robert (May 21, 1970). "Jazz Annual". The Village Voice. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  21. ^ "Past Winners Search | GRAMMY.com". grammy.com. Retrieved 2 June 2013. Best Jazz Composition Of More Than Five Minutes Duration
  22. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  23. ^ "British album certifications – Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  24. ^ Cwik, Greg (September 25, 2015). "Understanding Miles Davis, in 9 Parts". Vulture. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  25. ^ "American album certifications – Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain". Recording Industry Association of America.