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 ·
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.

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more than 2 years ago
Well said, I definitely agree, the mood-shifting ability of 'Silent Way' is powerful stuff and I give it more time on the player than BB usually, something more satisfying about that build and release of tension from In a Silent Way

Warthur wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I think both this one and BB are very different beasts, though I will admit I listen to this far more than I do Bitches Brew. I think it's definitely the more influential of the two - by the time BB had come around people were already taking the ideas of In A Silent Way off in all sorts of different directions, plus IASW is just more accessible. BB is really fantastic when I am in the right mood, but IASW will shift me into the right mood whether or not I'm there when I start listening.
more than 2 years ago
I agree, love this one. Feel that it's superior to BB, absolutely, great review.


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