#55 Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez

From RoboCop (2014). Early on in the movie, a guitarist tried out his newly installed robot-arms. He was playing the Adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez, by Joaquín Rodrigo. Apparently, the robot-arms don’t work if emotions are evoked. But how does one play without emotions?

Listening to Leo Brouwer’s arrangement of the Adagio (second movement) of the Concierto de Aranjuez (from the collaborative album Leo Brower Con Irakere), I was reminded of two arrangements of the same piece performed by jazz musicians: Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio) by Miles Davis (on his album, Sketches of Spain, arranged by Gil Evans); and Spain by Chick Corea. In my junior (or sophomore?) year, I played a non-degree recital, and put together a quartet of friends – a bassist, a pianist, a percussionist, and myself – to play Spain. We basically did the Chick Corea version: began with the Adagio as an introduction, then launched into the main part of the song.

I have never looked up other versions of the Adagio, but sure enough, it has been rearranged numerous times. I went through a few versions listed on Wikipedia. The Modern Jazz Quartet rendition (with Laurindo Almeida as soloist) stays fairly close to the original, as is the one by jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. Ashby’s version intrigues me though, as she played the whole piece as a harp solo. Buckethead’s simple arrangement lets the melody takes its course, but listening to Santana wailing over a reggae one-drop is interesting to say the least…

Of course, I would have to include the effortless performance by Paco de Lucía. Unlike all the other recordings, Paco de Lucía performed the complete concerto (not just the Adagio), and apparently learned the whole piece by ear.

And there are two versions I would like to mention that are not on the Wikipedia list: the first one is by the Brazilian guitarist Dilermando Reis. On top of playing a steel string guitar, Reis took a “Liberace” approach and shortened the movement to merely four minutes. Contemporary guitarist Don Ross also played the Adagio on a steel string guitar, but in addition, he had Carlo Domeniconi turning pages, and gave a “finger style treatment” to the cadenza!

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