I have a few Miles Davis albums, and a few years ago I was given 350 of them as MP3’s, though I only listened to a few, 350 albums is a stupid number and I’d never have been able to get through all of them and give them the listening time they deserved. Though it was one of the 350, I have never listened to In A Silent Way before, even though it was released in 1969 and is now approaching 50 years old.
My copy, that’s it up there, is not in perfect condition, although it is a 1969 European pressing, which is why it isn’t in perfect condition I should think. There are crackly bits here and there and the cover has a bit of a crease in it, however, I still love it.
As I enjoy ambient music, film scores and instrumental post rock this album sits really well with me, it is not inaccessible as some Jazz can be, I’m not sure it is even Jazz at all to be honest. I don’t find it jarring or particularly dissonant, it is intricate but, as the title suggest, in a silent way.
By 1969 jazz music was widely regarded as largely irrelevant and Miles Davis had become one of yesterdays men having once been one of the coolest men on planet earth. The release of In A Silent Way changed all that and established Davis as the first major jazz artist to crossover to a more rock orientated audience. The album was recorded in a single session on February 18th 1969 and is considered by some to be a blueprint for ambient music that later followed.
Better writers than me have written pages and pages about this album, one of which was Lester Bangs, writing for Rolling Stone: “the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music. It is not rock and roll, but it’s nothing stereotyped as jazz either. All at once, it owes almost as much to the techniques developed by rock improvisors in the last four years as to Davis’ jazz background. It is part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality”
He’s not wrong. It is an extraordinary piece of music and I find myself getting lost in it, in a good way. I don’t even think of it as an album primarily by a jazz trumpeter, so full is it of great musicianship that all the instruments are balanced and shift from background to foreground quite effortlessly. Who were these musicians?
- Bass – Dave Holland
- Drums – Tony Williams
- Electric Piano – Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock
- Engineer – Russ Payne, Stan Tonkel
- Guitar – John McLaughlin
- Organ, Electric Piano – Josef Zawinul
- Producer – Teo Macero
- Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
- Trumpet – Miles Davis
I have been listening to the album a lot over the last week, including on the drive to work the other morning, which is potentially dangerous as I found myself sinking into my own thoughts and driving several miles without quite knowing how I got to where I was. This is something that can happen with reasonable frequency for people who do a lot of driving, but it seems much more likely to occur with this album playing on the journey.
I may be caught up in the joy of discovery, so I will give my rating for this album with a side note that it may be reviewed at a later date, but for me, right now?