Miles Davis-Gil Evans: Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)

Track

Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)

Artist

Miles Davis (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Gil Evans (arranger)

CD

Sketches of Spain (Sony 1207)

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Musicians:

Miles Davis (trumpet, flugelhorn), Gil Evans (arranger), Bernie Glow (trumpet), Taft Jordan (trumpet), Louis Mucci (trumpet), Ernie Royal (trumpet), Dick Hixson (trombone), Frank Rehak (trombone), Jimmy Buffington (French horn), Danny Bank (bass clarinet), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Elvin Jones (percussion),

John Barrows (French horn), Earl Chapin (French horn), Jimmy McAllister (tuba), Albert Block (flute), Eddie Caine (flute), Harold Feldman (oboe, clarinet), Janet Putnam (harp)

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Composed by Joaquin Rodrigo

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Recorded: Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC, November 20, 1959

Albumcoversketchesofspain

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

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 two particular points 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. The amount of counterpoint exceeds the original by leaps and bounds. If you listen to both versions back to back, this will be very obvious without me pointing out a thing to you. This piece takes what Gil achieved in “The Troubador” (1947) to a whole other level. The path was certainly well laid in his work with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra.

Gil once expressed to me that the thing that most inspired him about Miles was his sound. This piece perfectly illustrates how beautifully he sets up Miles. Listen to the opening: lines are perpetually moving, the harp undulating in high register, and the castanets fluttering. But the moment Miles enters, sonorities suddenly freeze, motionless—all lines, all undulation, all fluttering stop. This sudden vacuum brings us to focus purely on Miles' horn. It's a stunning moment. It's long been my suspicion that the castanets were supposed to stop a couple of seconds earlier than you'll hear on your recording. And sure enough, if you listen to the out-take on the boxed set, they stop the moment Miles enters, as was most certainly intended. You'll hear many other moments in this piece that showcase Miles in a similarly stunning way.

One of my favorite places in this piece comes at 5:44. I love the low flutes with wide vibrato that play and hesitate (there's a bassoon, French horn and harp voiced in those chords too, with an almost inaudible timpani in the background giving the slightest hint of motion). It's a very rubato (without strict time) section. I love how Gil utilizes Miles’ lowest range on the instrument. It's utterly haunting. There's a wonderful shift of color to brightness when Miles goes to Harmon mute, with cup-muted trumpets and flutes voiced behind him (9:30) giving a tangy sound. When the French horns enter at 10:11, they sound so warm by contrast as they play in sonorous parallel moving triads. That kind of harmonic movement is one way Gil gets the smooth sound that we've come to associate with him. The subtle moan in their parts is so expressive (10:28). Now the cup-muted trumpets, harp and flute all take over before you hear descending lines that slow us down. Here, Gil starts to set up anticipation for the large ensemble passage that will soon become the climax of the entire piece. He leads up to it using parallel triadic French horns again, voiced with flutes and harp. There's a counterline in the bassoon, a wonderful color to be appreciated throughout this piece. The castanets are going along throughout, helping the build. At 12:46 the tambourine color enters, and we are overwhelmed by a wonderful full-ensemble orchestration of the main theme. You'll hear moments of parallel and then contrary motion. I particularly love 13:26, where you can especially catch the essence of the parallel triadic motion in all parts. Listen to the French horns inside the ensemble. That lead note reaches the very top of the instrument range in the lead French horn at 13:36, and it just soars! And the triadic 16-notes at 13:46 are just so exciting. Conducting this section and hearing it surround you in live concert is a trip. Every hair stands on end.

This is followed up by all sorts of detailed, muted, impressionistic "color" accompanying very low lines in the tuba and bass. It comes down to such spareness and fragility with just a lone tuba, harp and bass behind Miles at 15:32. I love the passing of lines from the bassoon, to the Harmon trumpet, and finally to Miles at the very end. Whew!

Reviewer: Maria Schneider

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