MILES DAVIS — In a Silent Way (review)

MILES DAVIS — In a Silent Way album cover Album · 1969 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
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.
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