Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis & Gil Evans (RSD Mono)

I previously wrote a post about the Dutch Fontana pressing of this classic of big band jazz. The music itself, of course, is stellar. But it is instructive — and fun — to search for the best possible rendering of it on vinyl. 

So I decided to compare my recently acquired 1960 Fontana with this Record Store Day 180g reissue from 2013, which was mono. I am a bit dubious about these RSD mono Miles Davis records... I strove like hell to get ahold of their Kind of Blue, only to open my sealed copy and discover that the first track on Side 1 had a nasty factory scratch on it. Have these paragons never heard of quality control? It wasn't cheap, either.

But this Sketches of Spain was unscratched. And it sounded very nice — though of course  it is mono, so there is no exact comparison between it and the stereo Dutch Fontana.  However, compared to that Fontana, which was over half a century older, I felt Miles’s trumpet had lost presence here. 

It was rather soft and soggy by comparison to the 1960 Fontana. What Gil Evans called his “melancholy cry” had been blunted and tamed. Unkind words like “flabby” come to mind. The trumpet still has a harsh, sour quality, but without the fine grained detailed or clean-cut precision that distinguished it on the Fontana. 

The orchestra perhaps sound a little more integrated, but I suspect that’s just because it’s mono.

Miles Davis, arranged and conducted by Gil Evans. Sketches of Spain (Columbia CL 1480; Record Store Day 180g mono reissue, individual number 2957.)

(Image credits: the album cover, front and back, come from Northern Volume. The label shots, which are actually from an original copy rather than the RSD reissue, are from Discogs.)

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