Miles Davis
In A Silent Way


5.0
classic

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
June 6th, 2010 | 97 replies | 17,737 views


Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist


Perhaps the best (and certainly easiest) way to describe In a Silent Way is to call it Kind of Blue plus ten years of musical technology, but that'd be selling it short, wouldn't it? After all, force someone to casually listen to the latter and they might trick themselves into thinking it's "just another" jazz record. Which isn't too unreasonable, I guess: the album was mostly made up of conventional aspects of jazz music, from the instruments to the solos to the general "cool" atmosphere. Listen closer, though, and, innovations in modality aside (let's be honest, only a few of us know what that really means), there was certainly something different in the record that set it apart from jazz records prior: a sense of intimacy. The way in which the album was recorded almost let you visualize the music; the dark room being lit up by ecstatic soloists; the unfurling spaces between notes. All of this was delivered by way of jazz music so gorgeously written that the listener could only respond with wide-eyed wonder every time they heard it; a true revolution in aesthetic gratification not only for jazz but for music itself.

Still, after years of hearing similar "modal jazz" in smoky cafes and the like, one might need a little devoted inspection to see what really made the album special. This is in stark contrast to In a Silent Way, which almost certainly doesn't sound like most jazz you've heard. In the midst of the many things that Davis accomplished with writing and recording this album, perhaps the most important was practically inventing the fusion sub-genre of jazz by introducing "electric" elements to his cool jazz (such as electric guitar and keyboards). The sustained organ chord and single guitar arpeggio that open the album instantly start it off on a surprising note; a gorgeously mysterious and atypically ambiguous preface that wastes no time suddenly bursting a dense and surprisingly complex jam.

"Shhh/Peaceful", the opener and one of two tracks on the album, does an excellent job of showing what In a Silent Way is all about. The music here is much more thick and busy than Kind of Blue, with each instrument going every which way at almost any given time (though it never feels messy, like Bitches Brew later would). However, that same sense of pure musical marvel is still there: Miles' band (including Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock, among others) show finesse at sculpting gorgeous waves of sound while still making it seem spontaneous--which it almost certainly was, considering the album consisted mostly of drawn-out jam sessions stitched together by producer Ted Macero.

"In a Silent Way/It's About That Time" is even better, flaunting one of the most effortlessly gorgeous introductions to a song ever: the song, for about four minutes, wallows in a drowsy pool of guitar, keys and trumpet, softly carving a dazzling bit of musical atmosphere without really needing to "go anywhere" (if you don't mind me over-extending a little bit, this could very well be seen as a stepping stone in what would later be called ambient music). Just as Kind of Blue was brilliant for evoking late-night fascination with modal structure, this song is for evoking that same feeling without structure. The intro breaks down jazz music to its basic components and has the genius idea to let them wade in their own juices before putting them back together again. The song, much like "Shh/Peaceful", then breaks into a jam that would make any group of stoners with guitars jealous. Melodies and motifs bounce off each other from one instrument to the next as the song moves from idea to idea, and it becomes apparent that these are excellent musicians at the top of their game, unafraid of what's next.

With In a Silent Way, Davis embraced the future of both jazz music and music itself, while still retaining the childlike enchantment of his past masterpieces. If only musicians of modern times retained this fearlessness, perhaps albums of this caliber could appear a little more often.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2010



14884 Comments


wrote this quick and shi


love this

Athom
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2010



17118 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this and bitches brew are my favorite miles

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2010



14884 Comments


i like this a lot better than bitches (which is at a 4 for me)

kind of blue is also a classic

Bulldog
June 6th 2010



3796 Comments


miles davis is awesome

megadeth101
June 6th 2010



865 Comments


A friend of mine who is really into jazz told me that Bitches Brew is a pretty bad place to get into Davis' discography.


robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2010



14884 Comments


bitches brew is a beast (i.e. really long) and quite hard to "unlock"--i still am not sure if i have "gotten it" yet and enjoy this and kind of blue (and possibly other albums) more. some great jams on there, though.

Bulldog
June 6th 2010



3796 Comments


nefertitis a pretty cool album as well

megadeth101
June 6th 2010



865 Comments


I've only listened to Kind of Blue btw. Where should I go on?

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2010



14884 Comments


here : )

megadeth101
June 6th 2010



865 Comments


thanks bro

qwe3
June 6th 2010



21154 Comments


prefer Kind of Blue to this but this is still incredible. Miles Davis has put out so much good shit it's mindblowing.

review was awes

buckfutter
June 6th 2010



2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't know what this is aboot. Sorry, about. I was in Canada last week opening up for Miles Davis..... Kilometers Davis.

buckfutter
June 6th 2010



2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Seriously, though, this is one of the few jazz albums I can listen to all the way through and not get bored. Just not my thing. Good review.

Pizza
June 6th 2010



687 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i love this shit, i really need to get some more miles davis outside of this and kind of blue. nice review too

liledman
June 6th 2010



3817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

good review man.

great album, i like this much more than bitches brew.

Dryden
June 6th 2010



12813 Comments


good review.
pos

Dryden
June 6th 2010



12813 Comments


it was supost to be a secret silly

ShadowRemains
June 6th 2010



19441 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hahahahahahahaha

dryden wins

Enotron
June 6th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Love this album. It's sound is almost like ambient jazz. I'd describe the atmosphere to this to be more subtle and cool(but more technical than Kind of Blue), while Bitches Brew is more messy in dynamics and almost art-jazz(if that is a genre).

Douglas
June 6th 2010



8984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Good review... i love this album, but Bitches Brew will always be my fav Miles.



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