Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.
– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)
Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.
A New Sound For Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox – Orchestra & Classical Spanish Guitar
“Concierto de Aranjuez” is unique among the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox selections, which have thus far been predominately country (e.g., “Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams and “Cold Hard Truth” by George Jones), pop (e.g., “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino and “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles), and covers of Cohen’s own songs (e.g., “Avalanche” by Nick Cave and “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” by McComb & Peters).
Ranked #5 in the list of Leonard Cohen’s favorite songs in 1985,1 “Concierto de Aranjuez,” was written by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo in 1939 in Paris as a piece for classical guitar and orchestra.
Update: In a 1988 interview with Gill Pyrah on The Night is Young, Leonard Cohen noted his admiration for this piece, especially the way “the orchestra launches guitar.”
According to Wikipedia,
The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort palace and gardens built by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century and rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Ferdinand VI. The work attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature.
According to the composer, the first movement is “animated by a rhythmic spirit and vigour without either of the two themes… interrupting its relentless pace”; the second movement “represents a dialogue between guitar and solo instruments (cor anglais, bassoon, oboe, horn etc.)”; and the last movement “recalls a courtly dance in which the combination of double and triple time maintains a taut tempo right to the closing bar.” He described the concerto itself as capturing “the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains” in the gardens of Aranjuez. Rodrigo and his wife Victoria stayed silent for many years about the inspiration for the second movement, and thus the popular belief grew that was inspired by the bombing of Guernica in 1937. In her autobiography, Victoria eventually declared that it was both an evocation of the happy days of their honeymoon and a response to Rodrigo’s devastation at the miscarriage of their first pregnancy.
Several recordings of various arrangements of “Concierto de Aranjuez” have been produced over the years.2 Rather than attempt to promote one or another as the exact performance favored by Cohen in 1985, I have selected two representative videos.
John Williams – Concierto de Aranjuez
Pepe Romero – Concierto de Aranjuez
Note: Originally posted Apr 16, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- From Leonard Cohen – In Eigenen Worten (in his own words) by Jim Devlin, a listing found by Florian at LeonardCohenForum [↩]
- From Wikipedia: A number of musicians have since reinterpreted the work, including jazz legend Miles Davis in the company of arranger Gil Evans. On the album Sketches of Spain (1960), Davis says: “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets.” Violinist Ikuko Kawai’s version, “Aranjuez”, is an upbeat, faster update to the work. Clarinettist Jean-Christian Michel’s transcription of “Aranjuez” has sold some 1,500,000 copies. Guitarist Buckethead covered “Sketches of Spain” on his album Electric Tears as a tribute to Miles Davis. Bassist Buster Williams performs a solo bass transcription of the second movement of Concierto de Aranjuez on his album Griot Liberté (2006). Until asked to perform and interpret Concierto de Aranjuez in 1991, the Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia was not proficient at reading musical notation. De Lucía claimed in Paco de Lucia-Light and Shade: A Portrait, that he gave greater emphasis to rhythmical accuracy in his interpretation of the Concierto at the expense of the perfect tone preferred by classical guitarists. Joaquín Rodrigo later declared that no one had ever played his composition in such a brilliant manner. A major interpretation of the Concierto, which stands strongly with Miles Davis’s Sketches rendition, is that by Jim Hall on his 1975’s album, Concierto (also featuring Chet Baker, Paul Desmond, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, and Roland Hanna). Hall’s strong lyricism and outstanding sense of tone particularly giving the piece (performed in full and running to over 19 minutes) an understated power. The Concierto is, in many ways, the centrepiece of the album which is often regarded as Jim Hall’s peak. The piece also featured in the film Brassed Off, with Ewan McGregor, and was played by the Grimethorpe Colliery band. In that film, it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Concierto d’Orangejuice.’ This is a familiar name in the brass band community (although it is often shortened to ‘Orange Juice’); the arrangement they refer to was created by Bolton. The Modern Jazz Quartet has several recordings of the Concierto, one with Laurindo Almeida, another on the Last Concert CD and In Memoriam CD. Jim Roberts of Orlando FL, has two recordings, one with his trio and another with his Saxtet, both very listenable arrangements. A version entitled “Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto” was released by The Shadows in 1979. A version of the Adagio was released as a single entitled “Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto” by Geoff Love, (under the name of Manuel & the Music of the Mountains) in 1976. This reached no 3 in the British singles chart. Lebanese female singer Fairuz, has also used the music of the second movement on one of her songs “Le Bairut” (To Beirut). Also the Egyptian born Greek singer Demis Roussos used the same music for his song “Follow Me”.