I remember how surprised I was when I first listened to the Miles Davis version of the Gershwin Opera Porgy and Bess. I don't know what I had been expecting, but I don't think it had been such a straight orchestral performance of the music. The Miles I had known at the time was the Miles of the late sixties and seventies - the music that had been the inspiration for groups like Weather Report. So this was a Miles Davis I had never heard before. However it's the type of music that brought him his initial renown, so when the opportunity arose to travel back to that time again via the newly released Legacy Recordings of Sketches Of Spain I jumped at it.
The Legacy edition of Sketches Of Spain is a two disc affair, with disc one containing the sides that were originally released back in 1960 plus "Song Of Our Country" that was recorded during those sessions but not released until 1980. Disc two contains out takes from the recording sessions plus the only live performance ever given of "Concierto de Aranjuez" (Adagio) by Miles and orchestra, and "Teo" a piece from the album Someday My Prince Will Come which Davis wrote in honour of Sketches' producer Teo Macero. Included on disc one is a PDF file which includes photos from the recording sessions, production notes taken during the sessions by Macero, and newspaper articles written about the album. While all the music has been released at one time or another previously, this represents the first time it has been gathered together in one collection.
For those wishing to read a thorough dissecting of the music on both discs, and an in depth analysis of the recording sessions, the extensive liner notes written by Gunther Schuller, composer, performer, and educator, are sure to please. A former French horn player, Schuller played on both Birth Of The Cool and the aforementioned Porgy and Bess, and he's also a jazz historian. While I'm not usually a fan of the deconstruction of a recording session after the fact type of notes, Schuller's are an exception. They offer both a professional and personal perspective that make them far more comprehensive than what you'd usually find in a package of this type.
As the title suggests the music on Sketches Of Spain was highly influenced by Spanish compositions. In fact "Concierto de Aanjuez" (Adagio) was written by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo and the second track, "Will O' The Wisp", is an excerpt from Manuel de Falla's ballet El Amor Brujo (Love By Sorcery). As the first and second tracks of the recording respectively, they set the mood for the rest of album and obviously influenced composer and arranger Gil Evans' own compositions which made up the last three (four if you include "Song Of The Country") tracks on the album.