Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain

I’m on a real Miles Davis kick right now. I haven’t been so excited about things I haven’t heard before since, well Marquee Moon was heading home for the record store in a white plastic bag with the infinitely talented Tom Verlaine on the front cover looking like Keith Richards junkier brother. I never understood what the late Lester Bangs, my writing hero, had against Verlaine, or his band Television, but figure it to be a personal clash of titanic personalities. New York clearly was not big enough for the both of them.

I had heard Kind of Blue but it was not on my usual heavy rotation punk, grunge and classic rock and pop merry-go-round of listening pleasure. I have only just really clicked with Bitches Brew, and never really delved into Davis’s oeuvre with any kind of seriousness or enthusiasm before. I am coming at this with fresh ears, and I am overwhelmed with joy. I know I’m a bit behind the curve here, but Miles Davis was a stone cold genius.

I found myself strapping on my boots of Spanish leather, digging out some Hemmingway Death in the Afternoon, (Spanish bullfighting memoir from 1932, as glorious in it’s depiction of Spain, as it is brutal in its love of blood sports. I hate bullfighting, I love Hemmingway), and wishing I had a jug of Sangria and some bread and olive oil with chunks of garlic and chili pepper floating in it to soak up the booze. Forget not being able to travel due to this wretched virus, Miles will take you to Spain.

It’s romantic epic spread of sound is almost as much classical as it is jazz, but as soon as you get too comfortable, Davis gets that syncopation going, hits you with some skronk, some hooting trumpet dissonance, a falling off expressive half intonated note followed by that shrill almost melodic flute, and gets into that play and counter-play, weave and weft genius, and reminds you that we are not in some Vienna concert hall now, baby! We are in the hills of Spain, some civil war shit going down, yes, there will be death in the afternoon, blood on the dirt of the bullfighting ring, and lives and fortunes made and lost as senoritas and sun-kissed lotarios joust for pleasure and pain in the failing days of the mid twentieth century. I am in love.


  1. Ron Pavellas

    I was deep into Miles Davis for a while, and stopped at Kind of Blue, feeling it was kind of pinnacle My now dead friend Fred gave me sketches of Spain and Witches Brew. I felt they were too advanced for me–Davis found a place too mystical for me and I could not grasp it. Tinnitus disallows my properly hearing any music now, but I can conjure phrases from Kind Of Blue from memory, and the feeling. He was a great man.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      I am so sorry that blasted tinnitus stops you from enjoying new sounds, Ron! That is awful. Im currently in some kind of sonic heaven listening to Miles in the Sky. Real shivers down the spine stuff. I think it figures that the cool and enigmatic Fred would try to pass on Miles to you! I so wish I had met him, I think he and I would have enjoyed chatting.

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