The sound of the horn and the melody made by knife sharpeners in my father’s country probably reached Miles Davis through the work of the American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax in his 1955 publication, Spanish Folk Music (Columbia World Library of Folk & Primitive Music). Lomax’s complete archives were made public in 2012, but by the end of the 1950’s sections of his work were already a part of the previously mentioned publication. Nowadays, anyone may have access to Lomax’s collection and research work through the Library of Congress or through the Spanish National Research Council, or CSIC. People may peruse the correspondence of the ethnomusicologist with his respondents and know how much Lomax paid for their contributions, for example.
In 2010, through the director of Barcelona’s International Jazz Festival, Joan Antón Cararach, I received an e-mail from the late jazz producer, historian and arranger Bob Belden proposing the rather peculiar idea of making an album devoted to the sounds that influenced Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that historic recording. In our correspondence, Belden wrote about the way Gil Evans arranged the song The Pan Piper and described what he wanted me to do around that melody…that recording session marked a clear before and after in my understanding of the power of our Galician world (Miles Español was the name of the final product, and included collaborations from Chick Corea, among others).
Imagining what José María Rodríguez, the pig gelder from Faramontaos, recorded for Alan Lomax in the fifties, or imagining how he ended up inspiring one of the great figures in the world of jazz, helped me realize that, sometimes, it’s us alone who put up our own limits.