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Miles Davis - In A Silent Way CD (album) cover

IN A SILENT WAY

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 713 ratings

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Trevere
5 stars Miles Davis officially enters his electric period as he expertly combines jazz and rock on his landmark 1969 album In A Silent Way. Davis once again led the world of jazz into a new era of fusion by making use of more electric instruments and post- production effects on this album. In A Silent Way and its follow-up Bitches Brew would prove to be the standard to which all jazz fusion albums are measured, and the assembly of musicians who created these albums would all depart to create their own famous jazz fusion bands. In A Silent Way is a spectacular achievement in the history of music and stands the test of time as the high watermark for the genre of jazz fusion.

In A Silent Way was recorded in one studio session on February 18, 1969. Miles Davis came into the studio with sketches of what he wanted to record, relying mainly on improvisation to fill out the album. Four songs were recorded and later stitched together into two album side long songs by Davis' long-time producer Teo Macero. This level of post-production was unprecedented in jazz and left many people disliking the album at first, but it proved to be a revolutionary move in the history of music production.

Miles Davis was heavily into the psychedelic rock scene that was happening in America at the time, and he decided he wanted to use electric instruments on his next album. Most of the band was the same from Davis' previous album, Filles de Kilimanjaro, but with the notable additions of guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Joe Zawinul. These additions give the album a much more electric feel different from any previous jazz album, with McLaughlin's smooth finger-flying solo on "Shhh/Peaceful" and the guitar and organ groove laid down in "In A Silent Way/It's About That Time." Miles Davis assembled musicians of the highest calibre for In A Silent Way, all of whom went off to start their own jazz fusion bands that would eventually become leaders in the genre as well. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter partnered with Joe Zawinul to create Weather Report, keyboardist Herbie Hancock embarked on a magnificent solo career as his fellow keyboardist Chick Corea started Return to Forever, and John McLaughlin led Mahavishnu Orchestra. The talent present on In A Silent Way is astounding when the listener realizes the later legendary status of each member of the band.

The first song on In A Silent Way, "Shhh/Peaceful" features Davis' piercing trumpet trading off solos with McLaughlin's guitar while the keyboards and organ play a spacey mood underneath that gives the track an ominous feeling. Both songs on In A Silent Way follow the order of the initial melody followed by the second track edited on, then a coda back to the beginning. The stitches where the two tracks were edited together are noticeable but don't interfere with the flow of the music, as Teo Macero expertly weaves his way through the extended improvisational jams that the band gave him. "Shhh/Peaceful" goes from a quiet and dark mood in "Shhh" to the upbeat "Peaceful." John McLaughlin's low-key note-bending solo is relieved by Wayne Shorter's clear and captivating soprano saxophone before the song is returned to the beginning and we get a repeat of the first six minutes of the song. This may seem like a lazy production technique but it works well to introduce and bookend the solos of the amazing "Peaceful."

"In A Silent Way/It's About That Time" is the second of the two songs on In A Silent Way. "In A Silent Way" starts with a soft and slow guitar melody from McLaughlin backed by ambient chords from the keyboards to create a sleepy mood. Davis' trumpet jumps in to play a sweet melody before the song is cut and launches into the opposite feeling; the fast and groovy "It's About That Time." This 11 minute long middle section is characterized by the underlying groove created by the bass and keyboards as John McLaughlin plays another smooth but technical solo overtop. As the main bass line finally takes shape about halfway through the song, Wayne Shorter takes over and plays a masterful solo on the soprano sax that takes the listener through peaks and valleys as he navigates through the dense fog of organ and keyboard tones. Just as in "Shhh/Peaceful," "It's About That Time" hits the coda and returns to the beginning of "In A Silent Way" at the end, which prompts the listener to start the extraordinary cyclical album all over again.

With In A Silent Way, Miles Davis created the genre of jazz fusion while also releasing the best album of said genre in one fell swoop. In A Silent Way is not only a landmark in the history of jazz, but music as a whole. The album brought forth a new era of experimentation in music that has influenced countless artists since its release. In A Silent Way is an artistic achievement in music and a true classic album in every sense of the word.

Trevere | 5/5 |

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