Miles Davis and Gil Evans defied genres with ‘Sketches of Spain’

February 15, 2015

When is the last time you listened to “Sketches of Spain?” I’ve been surprised at how many of my classical music friends have never heard of it.

The adagio of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” is the centerpiece on the album, which features trumpeter Miles Davis with orchestrations arranged and conducted by his friend, the legendary Gil Evans.

Davis thought the concerto's adagio melody was so strong that "the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets."

Even though it’s widely considered a masterpiece of modern art, it was controversial from the moment it was released in July 1960. What kind of music is this?

Classifying art is troublesome. Miles didn’t like the word “jazz.” Shortly before he died in 1991 he said what he played is social music.

The word jazz also implies improvisation. Two of the world’s greatest improvisers were classical musicians -- Mozart and Beethoven.

Photo: Sketches of Spain thumbnail

I’m not trying to ignite the old jazz-versus-classical argument. Just reflect for a moment on how potentially limiting classifying can be. Share your thoughts. I’d like to hear from you. What is classical music in 2015?