sketches of spain
It is impossible to think on Miles Davis\’ collaboration with arranger, Gil Evans on 1959\’s \”Sketches of Spain\”, without acknowledging the marriage in popular culture between jazz and the visual arts which simultaneously saw Picasso\’s most fluid artistic expression pass directly into the mainstream. Recorded between November, 1959 and March, 1960, \”Sketches of Spain\” – a compendium of arrangements loosely derived from the European folk tradition – is widely regarded as the most commercially accessible milestone in Davis\’ career. No surprise when one considers how this key release conspicuously tapped into the zeitgeist which fueled the very public celebration of Latin culture which would carry over from the decade\’s closing chapter well into the 1960s and beyond.
Not nearly as improvisational in approach as more cerebral later statements which would culminate in \”On the Corner\”, this LP nonetheless serves as a defining moment which led jazz out of the Bebop cul-de-sac which had dominated the better part of the preceding decade with its faster tempo and predictable structure. Most irritatingly, in turn, it was derided in some hardcore jazz circles as being little more than sophisticated easy listening.
A similar parallel can be observed in those bohemian loft space coteries antagonized by Picasso\’s own commercial success in the same period; a sneering derision that he could sell out so brazenly as the straight bourgeoisie embraced and bought up tourist kitsch with a Spanish or Mexican theme by the vacationing trunk load.
Elevator music, maybe. But what a f@cking lift.