Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Miles Español Celebrates Miles Davis and the Afro-Latin Influence On Jazz

Miles Español is the title of a two-CD recording on Entertainment One Music that was conceived and produced by Bob Belden with a roster of internationally renowned artists. Subtitled New Sketches of Spain, the disc includes fresh renditions of compositions from Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue, and original compositions from some of the contributing artists.

Among the more than 30 musicians assembled are Chick Corea, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, pianist Chano Domingez, drummer Alex Acuña, flautist Jorge Pardo, Sonny Fortune, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Rabih Abu-Khalil. Some of the musicians are former Miles sidemen, some are flamenco masters from Spain, some are from North Africa, and some are prominent figures in New York’s Latin Jazz scene. Tim Hagans, Scott Kinsey, and Vince Wilburn Jr. (Miles Davis’s nephew). One purpose of this recording is to emphasize the Africa-Spain-New World Connection in the emergence and evolution of jazz as is titled Doug Ramsey’s essay in the liner booklet, taking us from Jelly Roll Morton to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie and reminding us of the impact the Moors had during their occupation of Spain.

Belden himself in his notes here states that in his treatment of some compositions such as Concierto De Aranjuez, he did not wanted to mimic Miles’ recording but rather help develop the Gypsy and Arabic influence on Spanish music and his unusual instrumentation that includes oboe and bassoon in addition to oud, dumbek and cajon to allow this fresh hearing of a classic. Chick Corea’s Trampolin follows with Ron Carter and Antonio Sanchez joined by flautist Jorge Pardo on the buoyant flamenco inspired piece.
Just Three Miles is by Rabih Abu-Khalil whose oud playing and trumpet by Tim Hagans provide an intriguing mix of Berber and other sounds. Duende is a duet between guitarist Niño Joseles and flautist Pardo with a strong flamenco base. It’s followed by the marvelous Gonzalo Rubalcaba on Fantasia Por Miles Y Gil, listed as a solo piano performance in the booklet, but he clearly is accompanied by bass and drums (Carter and Sanchez?).

Similarly on what is supposed to be a piano trio plus percussion, Edsel Gomez’s Paisaje Urbano has an unidentified soprano saxophonist (Sonny Fortune?) who dances above Gomez’s Latin jazz piano. The unusual instrumentation continues on Saeta/ Pan Piper, with its employment of bagpipe in addition to woodwinds and French horns and trumpets with the harp of Edmar Casteñada standing out among the percussion with a bassoon solo by Mike Rabinowitz framed by riffing muted trumpets.

Jack DeJohnette’s Spantango opens the second disc with unidentified flute (Jorge Pardo?) along with Chano Dominguez’s spectacular piano, Eddie Gomez’s bass, DeJohnette‘s and Luisito Quintero’s congas. It is followed by a rendition of Miles’ Flamenco Sketches with Sonny Fortune’s flute and Jerry Gonzalez’ flugelhorn in addition to more piano from Dominguez. Gonzalez is outstanding in his spot, and like most of this recording the performance highlights percussion over orchestration. Tirititran Catalan is a traditional theme that bassist Carles Benavent arranged that spotlights Niño Joseles acoustic guitar and Corea’s piano followed by another selection that showcases Corea with a guitarist, John Scofeld’s El Swing, with Scofeld’s single note runs standing out with DeJohnette being outstanding providing rhythmic accents. Rubalcaba’s Momento has a ruminative quality while Miles’ Teo/ Neo showcases Edsel Gomez’s piano with John Benitez on bass, Alex Acuña on drums and Sammy Figueroa on congas supporting his effervescent playing.

By the close of Solea, again with an expanded ensemble with woodwinds, brass, harp and accordion, one has listened to a variety of performances that freshly explore not simply the music that Miles recorded five decades ago, but a more contemporary presentation of some of those elements that provided inspiration then and continues to provide a source for fresh musical invention. While the list of personnel in the booklet contains some errors, musically there can be no fault whatsoever found on this thoroughly engaging recording.

My review copy was provided by a publicist or the record label. The review originally appeared in the November 2011 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 338).  To that review I add this youtube video of the recording of this album.  

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