MILES DAVIS — In a Silent Way

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4.61 | 93 ratings | 8 reviews
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Album · 1969

Filed under Fusion
By MILES DAVIS

Tracklist

A Shhh / Peaceful
B1 In A Silent Way
B2 It's About That Time

Total Time: 38:12

Tracks B1 and B2 are mixed together

Line-up/Musicians

- Dave Holland / Bass
- Tony Williams / Drums
- Chick Corea / Electric Piano
- Herbie Hancock / Electric Piano
- Josef Zawinul / Electric Piano, Organ
- John McLaughlin / Guitar
- Wayne Shorter / Saxophone [Tenor]
- Miles Davis / Trumpet

About this release

Columbia – CS 9875 (US)

Recorded at Columbia Studio B, NYC, on February 18, 1969

Thanks to snobb, Matt, Abraxas for the updates

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MILES DAVIS IN A SILENT WAY reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

dreadpirateroberts
In a Silent Way creeps up on you.

I don't mind of course, but it can be a surprise to sit and force your ears to seek out everything that's going on, rather than let yourself be swept along by the music (which is certainly an enjoyable experience too), and realise that it's a busy album at times. Just not busy like 'Bitches Brew.'

This record has that subtle build, with refrain-like moments of stillness or delicacy. For forty minutes too, it can seem like a long album. It's hypnotic, the way that, in 'Shhh/Peaceful' for instance, Williams is just a machine on those hi-hats! He just keeps building things, varying his strokes, sure, but keeping a constant pulse. And perhaps because you have to wait for it a long time, because you're taken through measured soloing from Miles, Shorter and McLaughlin and an almost constant swelling and receding of ethereal keys, when it fades out after nearly twenty minutes, all that energy, rather than explode (as it does later) is released in an almost anti-climactic sigh when John's guitar plays those gentle lines at the beginning of 'In a Silent Way.'

Then Miles sneaks in to the track and after that first four minutes goes by, we get a kind of sharp edit as a cymbal crashes in to signify the beginning of 'It's About that Time' and suddenly everyone is getting aggressive. Williams is setting the pulse once more and at around ten minutes in, there's a kind of feint, where the rhythm section plays THAT riff.

But then they ease off again.

And suddenly it's been around thirty minutes and you're still waiting for them to cut loose. The riff comes back, then of a sudden Williams hits harder and everyone catches up to him, filling out the space in a wonderful moment of release. Then true to form, things quieten down for the coda, with sprinkles of keyboard from the awesome trio of Corea, Hancock and Zawinul.

Truly a fusion classic. No way I can bring myself to rate this lower than five stars. For those interested in hearing an important step in the beginnings of the fusion genre, this is a must.

As an important side note, the role of Teo Macero, which would become ever more significant in future Davis albums, should not be overlooked here. His conceptual ideas and editing technique is clearly an important part of 'In a Silent Way' and perhaps among the more progressive moments in Jazz, overseen, no doubt, by a gleeful Miles.
Matt
This was the album where Jazz Fusion was born. Miles last album Filles de Kilimanjaro was transitional where really the classic quintet of Herbie Hancock,Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and with the superb young drummer Tony Williams was their last recording. The Jazz Purists were horrified and all the young crowd thought fabulous. This was where Miles left the live club scene and after this album played stadiums with rock bands as diverse as Steve Miller to Crosby,Stills,Nash and Young.This is a complete transition to what Miles was playing previously and basically he left the bop scene behind to never return. He stated that he was sick of playing "My Funny Valentine" and wanted new directions to follow. Every musician who particapated in this recording has gone on to form their own fusion bands. Everyone of them is renowned as pioneers in Jazz Fusion. Bands such as Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, Lifetime, Dave Holland and the Herbie Hancocks albums. I could go on forever about the band members careers in Jazz . This would have to be one of the most talented Jazz bands of this calibre ever assembled.

The first track is by far my favourite on the album Shh/Peaceful. The track starts with a wash of key boards and then Miles comes in for his solo. John McLauglin is superb and provides a wonderful interplay throughout and when his solo follows which really is low key and restrained showing that a great guitarist does not overplay providing space and yes silence with spacing between every chord that he seems to strum.Wayne Shorter is next up and as usual superb with his solo. He really is one of the greats and for me is up there with the "Hawk"( Coleman Hawkins),Sonny Rollins,and with almost the power of John Coltrane. Spacing and placing would be a good term to describe his solo in this piece. Miles finishes of proceedings with another beautiful solo at the end bringing the tune back. This is a wonderful Jazz album and would have to be my most liked Fusion album.

The second track In a Silent Way / It's About Time starts with John McLauglin's guitar over a keyboard (Fender) Miles loved the sound and Miles comes in for beautiful low key solo which slowly builds pitch. This track is basically 2 pieces with the quieter section at the beginning and end where Miles plays in both with that beautiful tone that he had. The middle comprises more uptempo where respective muscians take solos as in most jazz formats.The composition finishes off the first piece played at the begining.

Masterpiece in fusion and with Bitches Brew to follow jazz had changed and Miles was leading the pack as always. When I last reviewed this album I only gave it 4 stars but even though I have been listening for near on 20 years it has taken me that long to realise 5 stars and nothing less. Shortness in time was the always the issue not the music.A loved album and one that I will always be playing till the last breath.

Members reviews

Negoba
Beauty that Transcends Genre

I came to Miles Davis differently than some on this site. I played brass instruments in middle and high school jazz bands, mostly songs with set arrangements and relatively short solo sections. Miles Davis was a little "out there" for me in those days but his technique and style were undeniable. As I got into guitar and learned about the fusion heroes of the 70's, BITCHES BREW was always part of the conversation. I checked out the seminal album, and still didn't get it. Late in college, I began my immersion in blues and then back to jazz. First I found KIND OF BLUE which remains one of my favorite records of all, deserving of its classic status. I actually looked backwards from there to BIRTH OF THE COOL era works, enjoying but not falling in love with that style. I finally picked up a copy of BB at a used record shop a few years ago and was still underwhelmed.

Finally, I saw that some fusion lovers were enjoying Miles' other fusion works more than BB. It was from this entry point that I found IN A SILENT WAY. It has now become my second go-to album from Davis, along side KIND OF BLUE. There is something just transcendant about this album. The bandmembers are simply so plugged into each other, the vibe so pure. While SILENT WAY superficially shares the basic sound of BB, it exceeds it on an emotional level by leaps and bounds. Where BB sounds like an excellent jam session, SILENT WAY feels like one of those works where the musicians were channelling something from another dimension. Athletes talk about being "in the zone," and all musicians can attest to knowing when that little special switch flips and something amazing happens. For me, I feel that all the musicians here are wide open with blazing beauty flowing through their instruments.

I never feel like "ok now it's Miles solo section" or that we dropping back into the main head of the song. (The second title song does have one thematic riff, but it weaves in rather than being used as an exposition.) SILENT WAY seems more like pure improvisation over a set groove, each player trying to tap into an emotional setting and then explore the scene. As the title suggests, these scenes evoke dark nights, mellow murmuring crowds. There is a sense of urgency but absolutely no aggression.

I have several albums rated as masterpiece in jazz-fusion, but none are better than this. Absolutely essential.

EatThatPhonebook
10/10

"In a Silent Way" is one of the essential Fusion records. A landmark achievement that never seizes to be so powerfully stunning.

“In a Silent Way” is for many Miles Davis’ magnum opus, the album that officially started the Fusion genre. Some may even say it’s the greatest Jazz record ever created, and as a matter of fact, if such a prestigious title would ever be officially labeled to any album, “In a Silent Way” would have a great chance in obtaining it. The famous musician just needed to get an absolutely stellar ensemble of musicians, almost all just as talented as he was, to reach such great heights.

As the first Fusion record, “In A Silent Way” starts off the genre quite smoothly: the music on the legendary album is quiet, peaceful, and never getting louder than it is. A record that for this reason might be a hard pill to swallow on the first spin, and might take several listens before it magically clicks. Fusion fans cannot deny that the basic, essential elements of the genre are present: electric guitars (by master John McLaughlin), electric keyboards (two legends, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea) and the organ are always strong characteristics of the album, all three instruments of course playing very smoothly and delicately. Miles’ trumpet is as usual sublime, haunting, with a seducing, sensual feel to it and with still a strong power of virtuosity. The crispy drums by Tony Williams give a suspended touch, while Dave Holland’s bass grumbles like a beast. Not to forget another great, Wayne Shorter on saxophone, even though admittedly his contributions are not as essential as the others.

The two tracks, that cover the entire space of the album dominate each side, starting with “Shh/Peaceful”, a relaxing, chill piece that remains of the same toned down mood for the entire eighteen minutes. The most curious thing then is how Miles managed it to sound constantly enjoyable. The song’s musicianship is flawless, ir has an innovating structure, almost identical to the second side: The first part, “Shh”, is somewhat climactic, where starting from an organ note almost all the instruments come in one at once a while before Miles’ trumpet steals the show. The song then evolves almost unnoticeably into “Peaceful”, the second section, with a great performance by John McLaughlin. The last minutes of the suite are dominated by repeating “Shh” identically. The second side, with the title track , has a very similar mood and feeling, however it is much more accessible in it’s form and more melodic sounding, with once again the repetition of the first part of the song in the final minutes.

“In A Silent Way” is a revolution in Jazz music, an album that at the same time never bores and always intrigues and fascinates. The electric Miles Davis will go on and create other masterpieces like “Bitches Brew”, but “In A Silent Way” is simply unforgettable, timeless, and still highly entertaining, even for someone who isn’t familiar with Jazz music.
J-Man
In A Silent Way is usually considered to be one of the first albums to blend traditional jazz with rock music, as well as one of the greatest albums in the fusion genre. Miles Davis had hinted at this fusion of jazz and rock music on a few previous efforts, but this observation from 1969 can safely be considered his first full-blown fusion effort. In A Silent Way is a little bit different from what you may be expecting from a fusion album, though - you'll hardly find any zany instrumental outbursts here. Apart from a few sections, this is a very subtle album that is focused mainly on quiet jazz ambiance and deep improvisation. The 'rock' element of In A Silent Way is mainly found in the instrumentation; the extensive use of electric guitar, electric piano, and organ was nearly unheard of in jazz music back in 1969. This is first and foremost a jazz album, and those seeking audacious rock rhythms and frantic soloing may be in for a slight disappointment, but it's an essential purchase for any open-minded fan of early jazz fusion music.

This album took longer for me to 'get' than a lot of other Miles Davis albums, for some reason or another. I guess an album that only consists of two sidelong tracks, both of which are only characterized by subtle rhythms and improvisations can take a little while to warm up to. In A Silent Way did eventually click with me, though, and after about six listens or so I began to understand what everyone else sees in this album. What initially struck me as boring noodling soon grew into genius solos, and the improvised chemistry between each of the musicians is truly remarkable. The album begins with "Shhh/Peaceful", which is (as the title suggests) a very quiet and subtle piece. It's a bit too long-drawn for my tastes, but there are plenty of great moments throughout the eighteen minute duration. Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea's electric piano playing both add lots of depth and layering to this piece. "In A Silent Way/It's About That Time" is my favorite of the two songs, and contains a few more traditional rock elements than the first track. The riffs also tend to change more frequently, and the ending is quite exciting.

Neither of the two songs draw extensively from rock music in terms of songwriting, but the electric instrumentation was sure to have jazz purists crying foul around the time of its release. John McLaughlin's warm electric guitar tones as well as the organ and electric pianos were, while still very subdued and gentle, pretty ambitious for jazz music at the time. Of course, the musicians playing these 'new' instruments were all top notch. If you look at the lineup and then consider all of the legendary jazz groups that formed from these guys, it's clear that Miles hand-picked some of the scene's most talented musicians for this session. The production courtesy of Teo Macero is very warm and clear - In A Silent Way sports one of the best fusion productions out there for sure.

Parts of In A Silent Way may feel a bit too long-drawn and unfocused for my tastes, but there's no denying that this is a revolutionary - and damn good - jazz fusion album. Anybody looking for an example of what jazz rock sounded like back in 1969 should be sure to check this classic out (if you haven't already heard it, of course). Although more subdued than a lot of other fusion classics, In A Silent Way should hold just as much appeal to rock and jazz fans alike. This may not be my favorite Davis album, but there's enough quality music and ambition here to let me consider it part of his essential canon. In A Silent Way deserves no less than 4 stars in my mind.
Warthur
Ground zero for fusion - at least from the jazz side of things (Frank Zappa had been working diligently on a fusion sound from the rock side for some time by this point). Although In a Silent Way doesn't sound very much like any of the fusion acts which would be spawned in its wake - Chick Corea's Return To Forever, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter's Weather Report, John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters work, the Tony Williams Lifetime, and Miles' own 1970s bands - it does nonetheless mark the point where a respected and widely-revered giant of the jazz scene went full electric and embraced a spirit of progressive, rock-influenced experimentation, which gave everyone the licence to follow.

Sonically speaking, it's almost ambient fusion; a swirling, foggy, soporific mass of sound out of which soloing emerges and fades from view. Kick back and relax and let it wash over you, or pay close attention to all the ins and outs of the album - it's your call, and both approaches to listening are rewarding in their own way. Plus, just look at the list of fusion acts I've outlined above whose key members performed on this album. How can any fusion fan not be interested in the sessions which brought all those talents together?
darkshade
The calm before the storm as I like to view it as.

What makes this album great is not only the music itself, but what came before and immediately after. Miles was building up to this album with his previous albums Miles In The Sky and Filles De Killmajaro, adding electric piano and electric bass to his sound, with some emphasis on rock beats.

When this album came around, Miles had surrounded himself with many well known jazz musicians, most of which would all go on to push the genre of jazz-rock/fusion further into the 70s.

But here we are. Whenever I listen to this album, it's great every time. The mood is peaceful, soothing, but aggressive at the same time in relation to the drums. Sometimes I think to myself how Miles took this "style" of music, and added a level of ferocity to the following album Bitches Brew, which is the "storm" that this album precedes. If you are familiar with BB, you know exactly what I mean.

By the way, as with most Miles Davis albums, I get the most enjoyment out of his music when it is played at night. His music just has that dark, nightly aura about it. But a lot of mystique is added when put in context with what came afterward too.

Anyway, this music is made up of only 2 songs, both of which are similar in mood, in fact; you may not realize when the first ends and the second begins, if you're not paying attention. My favorite aspect of this album, and just about any of his albums from '67 through '75, is the personnel on these albums showcase the musicians in contexts which you would never hear them in again. So even though fusion masters like Hancock, Corea, Zawinul, Shorter, Holland, McLaughlin and Williams are here, don't expect anything they did outside of Miles' groups. In a way, it's better than anything they have done on their own.

I have trouble describing the music here, as Ive been trying to do that for the last few paragraphs. What I can say is, do yourself a favor. Get this album. If you're a jazz fan, or a fan of any of the guys playing on this album, there is no way you can not enjoy this.
Sean Trane
With his quintet out of the way, Miles assembled his new group from the two versions he had present on FDK, Shorter, Hancock & Williams from one part, and Corea & Holland from the other and adding Joe Zawinul on organ and McL on electric guitar.

And right from the first notes you get an organ layers underlining a great electric piano and McL’s superb guitar interventions and the 18-mins+ Shhhhh/Peaceful track is under way for then-unheard musical soundscapes that were both written and improvised. It must be noted that if Miles was breaking ground, he wasn't the only one as he was aware of his buddy Mal Waldren “playing with a bunch of German hippies and doing some interesting shit”.

The flipside is no less interesting with the slower title track divided into three sections, the middle one being a much faster and longer called “it’s about that time”, where Herbie and Chick layer the bottom of the track on electric piano, while Zawinul gradually increase volume on his organ and heads to the forefront, .before leaving it to Miles to wrap it up before the title track returns. So if you were drooling at two keyboardists playing together, this album has three of them and collaborating beautifully together.

The only thing missing to this album is a drawn artwork ala BB or MITS and while the present picture might be the last one featuring him until he came back in the 80’s. Another slight remark is that the albums just before this one (FDK & MITS) were nearing one hour, that you wonder why this one is clocking below the 40 minutes and the remasters presented no bonus tracks, either real or alternate takes. Of course there are the “complete IASW sessions” boxset, but I found that to be deceiving as most of the sessions were acoustic and there were still some FDK tracks included. A first rate album, bringing the rock realm to whomever wanted among jazzers, and the first album that awakened the rock crowd to a jazz realm. Groundbreaking, and breathtaking

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