Me and Miles

Louise Levy reflects on her introduction to jazz

Photo Credit: Malik Shabazz (derivative of Miles Davis by Palumbo) CC BY-SA 2.0

A few years ago after I had retired from work, I started looking around for something to do. Because I enjoy jazz, I approached Fine Music and started working in the library, cataloguing the jazz collection.

As I was working I would listen via the headphones, when one afternoon there was Miles Davis, and it brought back memories of when I first heard Miles.

It was in the 80’s when I started listening to jazz, and the first time I got ‘hooked’ was from Miles Davis’ album Sketches of Spain, beginning with the first track called Concierto de  Aranjuez.  Miles was, and for me still is, one of the unique, innovative, and creative geniuses in jazz.

That afternoon when I got home from Fine Music, I went online looking for the composer of Concierto de  Aranjuez and found it was Joaquín Rodrigo, a Spanish man who was a composer and virtuoso pianist. In 1939 he wrote Concierto de  Aranjuez,  originally to be played by guitar and orchestra.

Credit Photo: Tore Sætre / Wikimedia

Twenty years later in 1959, Miles heard the music and was “hooked”. After listening to the guitar and orchestra version for a couple of weeks, Miles also wanted to record this piece. Unlike Rodrigo who played classical music, Miles played jazz, so he asked his collaborator, composer and pianist Gil Evans to adapt the music for Davis to record with orchestra. Davis plays both flugelhorn and trumpet with the 25 piece orchestra. Concierto became the main track on the album, taking up most of Side A.

As I continued to search that afternoon, I found a 2013 article about Chick Corea in The Wall Street Journal. During his interview, Corea, who plays piano and electric keyboard and also composes, talks about Davis and remembers listening to Sketches of Spain. Corea said: “on that track, Miles is playing the trumpet like a deep opera singer, taking his time with each phrase. He seemed to go beyond thinking of his instrument as a trumpet and was singing the melody through his horn. His playing brought tears to my eyes“. And there was the “gem” I needed to understand why I “love” jazz.

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