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Sketches of Spain

Sheffield Lab 10089



1. Concierto de Aranjuez
2. Will o'the Wisp
3. The Pan Piper
4. Saeta
5. Solea

Lew Soloff - Trumpet
Harmonie Ensemble, New York (Steve Richman - Conductor):
Dominic Derasse, Kenny Rampton, Joe Giorgianni, Marc Osterer - Trumpets
Mike Seltzer, Earl McIntyre - Trombones
R. J. Kelley, Doug Lyons, Vincent Chancey - French horns
Marcus Rojas - Tuba
Ed Joffe, Ralph Olsen, Rick Heckman, Charles Pillow, Ron Jannelli - Reeds
Stacey Shames - Harp
Francois Moutin - Bass
Jim Musto - Drums
Jon Haas, Erik Charlston - Percussion


Miles Davis has to be the "golden goose" of the jazz recording industry. In the 20 years since his death, every label for which he recorded has probably re-released most of his titles, issued box set compilations, or in some way repackaged his recordings, all to their financial benefit. Now, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, one of his acolytes, Lew Soloff, has reworked one of his most intriguing titles, Sketches of Spain, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the original release.

This is not to suggest that this is an inferior recording. To the contrary, this is a very significant and audacious disc. Soloff is a much-admired high-note player, who had been associated with Gil Evans in many of his recordings in the 60s and 70s, as well as being a member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Using the original Evans arrangements and the transcribed Davis solos, Soloff and conductor Steve Richmond have fashioned a journey with texture, colour and warmth which evokes a Spain that existed in Evans' musical imagination.

The first track is the Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo`s Concierto de Aranjuez which was originally a guitar concerto. Soloff beautifully captures the haunting poignancy of the Davis sound while playing muted trumpet, overlaying the shifting harmonic palette, which is separated by a spontaneous interlude before returning to the Rodrigo theme. Will o' the Wisp is from Manuel de Falla's ballet El Amor Brujo and continues the idea that is evocative of Evans' intent to bring the music to life.

The next three tracks are all Evans compositions with The Pan Piper meant to evoke a Peruvian street vendor's struggle to drum up busines. Soloff takes up the challenge, snaking between the woodwinds and brass. Saeta, which opens with a bassoon intoning a Moorish chant, allows Soloff to rip through the piece paraphrasing some of Davis' melodic lines. Finally, Solea which is based on an Andalusian blues line, devolves into a song of sadness and lonesomeness, then gathers passion, driving Soloff into a solo of terrific force supported by a background of drum rolls and other hand-held percussion.

The album has been beautifully recorded by Sheffield Lab with great spacing and clearness in the instrumental details, compared to the original Columbia recording done 50 years earlier. Be good to yourself, this disc is a keeper.

Pierre Giroux

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