Sketches of Spain isn’t overly sentimental to me (that honor belongs to the first straight-ahead jazz album I purchased – Terence Blanchard’s Billie Holiday Songbook). Sketches isn’t Miles Davis’ best work (that would be Kind of Blue). Heck, it’s not even my favorite Miles Davis album (Porgy and Bess).
So why is Sketches of Spain on my list of favorite albums? I’ll answer that in a minute. First, let me take you back to the summer of 1994.
I was 17 when I first heard Sketches of Spain. It was the summer before my senior year in high school, and I was a just discovering straight-ahead jazz. I knew of Miles Davis and other jazz greats because of Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block. I wanted to explore Davis’ recordings, but I couldn’t – there were just too many to choose from. I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, a very cool professor pointed me in the right direction.
Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: Sketches of Spain”
I’ve blogged about my love of Porgy and Bess before, so it should come as no surprise that one of George and Ira Gershwin’s tunes from the opera would make the countdown. I read somewhere that “Summertime” is the most covered song ever; artists from Janis Joplin to John Coltrane to Al Green to Ella Fitzgerald to The Roots have recorded this aria. The appeal of the song is evident on it’s first listen – it’s just a great song to sing and play.
Of the many versions in my collection, Miles Davis’ recording will always stand as my favorite. This version, arranged by Gil Evans, has become the de facto standard. (Note: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong also have a nice recording, but this is one time where I think the classy Fitzgerald sounds out of place -though Satchmo fits right it).
Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “My Favorite Things” for the Sound of Music. While Julie Andrews’ version is well known, I would argue that Coltrane’s 1961 cut is just as, if not more, well-known and significant. Released on Coltrane’s same-named album, “My Favorite Things” continues the modal exploration from Coltrane’s work on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. In addition to the modal rendition, “My Favorite Things” is also notable for introducing us to Coltrane’s work on the soprano saxophone. His solo, along with McCoy Tyner’s piano work, is a work of art.