Miles Español Released

A Rifftides reader asked what happened with Bob Belden’s Miles Español video and audio project that I took a brief hiatus to contribute to this summer. It is out as a two-CD set. My essay on the African, Spanish, Caribbean and New Orleans influences that led to Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain, among many other cultural and musical phenomena, is part of the package.

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  1. Terence Smith says

    When I read the above I was inspired to pull out my paperback of Miles Davis’ Autobiography (with Quincy Troupe) to reread the part (pp. 241-245) about making the “Sketches of Spain ” album with Gil Evans. I’ll bet Doug Ramsey’s essay makes reference to the very interesting comments from Miles there about how bassist Joe Montdragon played Rodrigo’s Concierto for him and said “you can do this”, inspiring Miles (who says he was thinking, “Damn, these melody lines are strong”) to get Gil Evans on board with it, followed by interesting thoughts about things Espanol.* Including about how you should try to notate such music as Gil’s Flamenco Sketch arrangements less precisely and teach the ensemble to play what isn’t there, and trumpeter Bernie Glow’s comment that it had the hardest passages he’d ever read/performed, as notated. Miles goes on to say that most classical players know deep down that they are playing “robot shit”, although they would not admit it publicly ( I disagree, but I do think that in another context Almeida plays the “Concierto de Aranjuez’ guitar part more soulfully than does John Williams). On the date, Miles and Gil had to bring in Ernie Royal and a couple of other jazz players, before the trumpet section could play Gil’s writing loosely enough.

    But the part I wanted to reread was on p. 245. Miles remembers that a woman told him of playing the “Sketches of Spain” album for a retired Spanish bullfighter who was raising bulls professionally, and who was reluctant to even listen to the album, because he could not believe an American could understand Spanish culture, especially flamenco music, well enough to perform it authentically. But she got him to hear out the album. When it was finished, the old bullfighter reportedly rose from his chair, put on his outfit, and went out and fought one of his bulls for the first time since his retirement, and killed the bull. Miles said it was hard to believe, but that the woman swore that “he said he had been so moved by the music that he just had to kill the bull.”

    My question is this: If she had played him the “Porgy and Bess” album, would the bull have been allowed to survive?

    *It does not. The Troupe/Davis book is not a reliable source; witness, for one small matter, Troupe’s misspelling of “Mondragon.”——DR