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

IN A SILENT WAY

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.28 | 730 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars MILES DAVIS didn't become one of the jazz world's most recognizable name by chance. This relentless composer and performer never for a single moment lapsed into any sort of complacency and was constantly advancing his art form to the next level. It would have been easy for DAVIS to rest on the laurels of his lauded 1959 modal jazz masterpiece "Kind Of Blue" which propelled him to the top of the jazz world's highest echelons however he immediately steered his craft in a completely new musical direction with the following "Sketches of Spain" which tackled the complexities of third stream and orchestral jazz competently infused with Spanish ethnic folk traditions. The 60s found a consistent stream of jazz recordings from DAVIS and a mere ten years later, DAVIS shocked both the jazz and rock worlds once again with this eclectic release IN A SILENT WAY which not only began DAVIS' own eclectic period that would extend into the 70s but also gave the green light for jazz and rock artists to commingle and open the doors for the wildest jazz-rock hybridizations to come.

While on the top of his game in the jazz world, DAVIS had a knack for keeping his pulse on the musical scenes at large and had a keen command of not only the rock and pop world but also steadily incorporated the most advanced techniques of Western classical music into his style. While jazz-fusion had been slowly but steadily building throughout the 60s by the likes of various artists like Herbie Mann, Gabor Szabo and even Jean-Luc Ponty, many of these hybrids were based on incorporating ethnic and world musics into the annals of the jazz universe. Rock was clearly considered inferior subject matter and although Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were beginning to display the fertile possibilities of such desegregation, it wasn't until MILES DAVIS released IN A SILENT WAY that it was considered a bona fide musical expression. All this despite DAVIS adding more fusion elements on the two preceding albums "Miles In The Sky" and Filles de Kilimanjaro" which steered the post-bop flavored compositions with rock music elements such as rhythm and blues, funk and other unthinkable things like electric instruments, repeated melodies and improvised jamming fortified with steady constant time signature flows.

While considered DAVIS' first true jazz-fusion album, IN A SILENT WAY owes more to the world of classical music in that its two lengthy tracks "Shhh"/"Peaceful" and "In a Silent Way"/"It's About That Time" are arranged in the classical sonata form which finds the two tracks featuring an exposition which presents the main theme, a development which moves the compositional themes through various keys and other technicalities and finally engaging in recapitulation which creates an alternative reality of the exposition. The two tracks in their entirety both extend past the 18 minute mark with each swallowing up an entire side of the original vinyl editions that emerged on 30 July 1969. Despite the classic nature of this album and its groundbreaking approach that has influenced jazz musicians ever since, the entire album was assembled from a short sessions from Studio B at CBS 30th Street Studio in New York City in February of 1969 with only a few extras recorded. The magic of the album came not only from the musicians involved but was more the product of the production and mixing laid down by producer Teo Macero. IN A SILENT WAY eschewed the post-bop gymnastics that allowed jazz musicians to exhibit their highly developed techniques but rather imbued an otherworldly atmospheric approach. Personally i would call this either spiritual jazz or dream jazz as it exudes a placid altered state of consciousness that drifts by serenely.

While the musical aspects of IN A SILENT WAY take a back seat to the atmospheric characteristics, the album is chock full of the best talent of the late 60s jazz world and successfully launched the careers of many of the newer members on board including guitarist John McLaughlin, bassist Dave Holland and keyboardist Chic Corea. While DAVIS' trumpet prowess is usually the star of the show, on IN A SILENT WAY, he remains rather obscured by the various waves of sound that oscillate with a heavier emphasis on the electric piano trade offs of Corea, Hancock and Austrian keyboardist Joe Zawinul who composed the exposition and recapitulation parts of the title track. Perhaps the most subdued role in this mellow style of jazz fusion are the drum parts of Tony Williams who propels just enough percussive drive to keep a slow steady beat which is perhaps why the jazz purists were so against this sort of development in DAVIS' evolution. Many saw this as selling out since rock music was ruling the commercial aspects of music supreme at the end of the 60s, however the jazz aspects were fully exercised with the complex harmonies and improvisations and the wind instruments which found Wayne Shorter's sax squawking and DAVIS' familiar trumpeting kept the music grounded in the world of jazz. Overall the album walked a very nice tightrope act between the jazz and rock paradigms. McLaughlin's guitar antics may have made him a huge star in the future fiery Mahavishnu Orchestra but on IN A SILENT WAY, his style is subtle and one must struggle to distinguish it from the tapestry of sound that flows like a cosmic river of time.

IN A SILENT WAY didn't exactly perform well upon its release as it went over the heads of many who were stuck in their respective expectations of what jazz or rock should be but historically, this album is now regarded as one of the most influential albums of the entire 60s as it unapologetically opened a completely new Pandora's box of musical mingling that changed the entire playbook for both rock and jazz. While a beautiful album indeed, this is one that i think gets rated so highly for its impact rather than its performances. While pioneering an entirely new reality of creative fertile cross-pollination, i don't find IN A SILENT WAY to be exactly the masterpiece that it is purported to be. On the contrary i find it as a mandatory first step for the music of the more magnanimous jazz-fusion expressions that DAVIS would conjure up with "Bitches Brew" and "Get Up With It." Those albums tackle the logical conclusion of what is presented here. Overall this album seems to just coast on like a nice road trip with no stops to see the sites. It merely presents a new idea to the audience without ramping up the extremes that would erupt onto the scene in a very short time. As a classic influential album, this indeed is a historical triumph but as a specimen of musical expression in its own right, i find it a tad on the tame side and due to the fusion creeping into both the jazz and rock worlds in the preceding years, isn't quite as revolutionary as "Kind Of Blue," however no one could ever argue that this album doesn't deserve its status as a benchmark for a new explosion of more artistic expressions of rock and jazz engaging in a hitherto unthinkable syncretism.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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