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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 February 2014
Miles Davis’ career spanned nearly five decades, and he was the engine for much change in jazz. From the early be-bop days through his later fusion, Miles covered just about every type of jazz (with the exception of that abomination called “smooth jazz”). From the early records on Prestige, through the seminal Kind of Blue, to later albums like Tutu, Miles embraced change.

The year 1969 was exceptionally fecund, with the recording of two radically different albums: In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. The former is a collection of slow, almost ambient improvisations; the latter uses a similar approach, but with a powerful rhythm section. Both feature electric instruments and develop Miles’ version of jazz fusion.

In a Silent Way is just over 38 minutes and consists of two songs: Shhh/Peaceful and In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time. Recorded in one day, on February 18, 1969, about three hours of music was used to create these two tracks. With Teo Macero producing Miles for the first time, this record is partly the result of improvisations, partly the result of Macero’s work editing different sections together. For example, on Shhh/Peaceful, Macero took the first six minutes of the track and repeated them at the end, making a piece in three sections which, with this odd edit, works quite well.

While this record could be called fusion, it’s much more. There are electric keyboards, there’s a pulsing beat, but it doesn’t have the rhythmic drive that Bitches Brew shows. Shhh/Peaceful is more rhythmic; In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time shifts between sections that are almost ambient and parts that are more rhythmic. The music is simple, beautiful, and flows like waves.

The list of musicians on this album is one that looks like a hall of fame roster:

Miles Davis – trumpet
Wayne Shorter – soprano saxophone
John McLaughlin – electric guitar
Chick Corea – electric piano
Herbie Hancock – electric piano
Joe Zawinul – organ
Dave Holland – double bass
Tony Williams – drums

This was the first album that John McLaughlin recorded with Miles, and his contributions are excellent, especially in the second section of Shhh/Peaceful. Wayne Shorter has a great sound and his solos are beautiful. The combination of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock on electric piano, and Joe Zawinul on organ, gives a lush background to the soloists. And the rhythm section is tight.

This is one of Miles Davis’ finest albums, yet it seems that, these days, not too many people know about it. It’s a very accessible album, especially now that this type of long, spacy jamming has become a part of the musical landscape. In many ways, this is similar to the way the Grateful Dead would jam around Dark Star or Playing in the Band.

So if you don’t have this album, I strongly recommend it. If you do own it, then you may need to get The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions. This 3 1/2 hour set includes all the music recorded during this famous day, as well as the final album versions of the two tracks. If you like the music on the album, you’ll love the rest of the jamming from that day.
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on 31 December 2003
“Jazz-rock fusion”… a label that has inspired dozens of mediocre records! But here it is in its primeval and arguably never to be bettered form – a groundbreaking showcase for the talents of artists at the peak of their skills and an addictive and quite brilliant example of true musical innovation.
Like “Kind of Blue” a decade earlier Miles Davis assembles a stunningly adept peer group – including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jo Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Chick Corea & Dave Holland – and then pushes their and his playing to previously undiscovered heights. The end result?… jazz improvisation at its very best, with nothing detracting from the unstoppable flow of the satisfyingly tight melodic structures, despite the enormous complexity of what is actually going on, and with the complete record merging into a gloriously unified whole.
“In a Silent Way” quickly draws you into its languidly ethereal atmosphere, driving poly-rhythms and wonderful extemporisations and, like all true jazz masterpieces, pays out enormous bonuses from repeat listening. One of the essential reasons why Miles Davis justifies his reputation and… a template for much future imitation and excess.
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on 20 May 2001
This is simply glorious music. John McLaughlin's guitar playing at the beginning of track 2 is pure beauty. Miles himself plays less on this record than most of his others, but his influence can be felt echoing around the music. There are also hints on McLaughlin's music in this CD. Simple, open and spacious are all perfect descriptions of the tracks. My favourite moment is on "Shh/Peaceful" when Tony William's drums stop for a moment, leaving Wayne Shorter's saxophone floating through. Wonderful.
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on 28 May 2004
'In a Silent Way' is one of many, many Miles Davis jazz records that should be taken down and noted by any Jazz lover. It is a little different from the norm, featuring just two tracks - but those two are expansive, brilliantly imagined and produced works of pure art.
Personally, I warm to the second, the title track more than the Corea/Hancock/Zawinul collaboration that is the first track. However, looking at the first one, it is also brilliantly true to form and is mystefying and incredible in itself. It's quiet, sloshing drum beat that runs right through the piece is perfect 'background whispering' to the voices of each of the instruments that ride above it. From Zawinuls organ, to Davis' own brilliant trumpet solos. From all the musicians however, these are never brash, never bold and always tasteful. The sound is complete and the oscilations from deep, magical space right back to quiet humming noise are simply mesmerising.
The second track is split into three parts. The first section is repeated after the simply gorgeous middle. Both of them are as equally well crafted as track one, but a little bit more outspoken, more definate in purpose. Particularly the middle section, which rings out more of the old trad. jazz we might have heard on 'Kind Of Blue' than anywhere else on the album. That in itself though is a relief. KOB was a masterpiece, and so is 'In a Silent Way'; but in its own... silent way.
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Recorded in 1969, this was the apotheosis of the jazz fusion style that the Davis quintet had been developing over the last few years since the recording of ESP. It's a sublime record, and shows just what an innovator Davis was.

It takes the modal jazz styles that Davis had made his own over the previous decade, and deftly mixes them with elements such as electric guitars to provide two extended suites of music that are just someplace else. All the hallmarks are there, the polyrhythmic backing, the soaring solos, Miles' own sweet and lyrical trumpet weaving its way in and out of the tune. But there is something else, a feeling, an ambience that just lifts this to a new level and makes it music that you can just become completely lost in.

It's a stone cold classic, 5 stars.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 April 2012
Miles Davis' 1969 album In A Silent Way is a truly mesmeric and beautiful listening experience. Groundbreaking as it is, and setting the tone for his legendary follow-up album Bitches' Brew where Miles was to take his newly developing 'electric jazz' to the next level, it never ceases to amaze me how melodic and accessible In A Silent Way really is (or certainly this is how I feel it should be regarded).

For the sound on In A Silent Way, Davis took his previous classic quintet, retained Wayne Shorter (playing soprano sax on this album, not tenor, as listed on the sleevenote), Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams, replaced Ron Carter with Dave Holland on bass and brought in additional keyboards players Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul (who also composed the album's title 'track'). In addition, Davis enlisted the services of young British guitarist John McLaughlin, who Tony Williams had brought to the US to play in Williams' own band, and who Davis had never heard until the day before the planned recording session for In A Silent Way! This is another example of the way Davis was able to spot (and nurture) talent, and, in effect, create (and make work) a great improvised band.

Given the extent of the resulting eight-piece band, the sound of the music produced is remarkably sparse and subtle. In effect comprising just two extended compositions, each following a classic sonata (exposition, development, recapitulation) structure, the melding together of Zawinul's organ, plus additional two electric pianos, with any of Davis, Shorter or McLaughlin soloing over the top, produces some exquisitely melodic and rhythmic sounds - resulting in a sound-scape which, quite frankly, it is hard to find the words to describe.

Along with John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, I regard In A Silent Way as one of the most seminal jazz (and indeed, music) recordings ever made.
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on 17 October 2011
As with much late 60's early 70's Miles this album is edited superbly by teo marceo there are examples of this less staight ahead jazz aproach on previous albums but this marks the beginning of my favourite Miles period simply a great album John Mclaughlin plays some of the best guitar of his career great ensemble playing Miles on top form
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For those who have never really clicked with Miles Davis this delightful, ambient and most interesting musical experience might be the key to the door you've never been able to open.

"In a Silent Way" is great late-night jazz, perfect in mood for those small hours after midnight, though it also works on a long, slow afternoon. Beautifully complex with overlaid keyboard playing from Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock (difficult to tell which of them is playing when, but hey who cares?) and virtuoso guitar from John McLaughlin complementing Miles's restrained trumpet and Wayne Shorter's soprano sax (credited on the cover of the CD as tenor, but in fact it's soprano), the ensemble weaves a spell so captivating and yet so accessible that even those normally left cold by Miles's experimental journeys into improvisation will be drawn into the magic.

"Shhhhh/Peaceful" sets the tone, ambient but just a little edgy with its minor-key melodic overlays gently inviting the listener's attention to the virtuoso playing, but never too insistent. The title track is a sparse, slow, late-night stretched-out mood-piece; relaxing and wonderful. "It's about that time" moves into a fuller but still-ambient space more adventurous in tone with a driving, positive bass line overlaid by trumpet and sax, again in the same minor key, before a reprise of the "In a Silent Way" theme returns to conclude the final minutes and bring the journey to a satisfying close.

The album is really one long piece with four sections, where one moves not-quite-seamlessly to the next, weaving an ever-more bewitching mood where the spell of early-hours intimacy is never broken. It's truly sublime.

Give it a listen. You'll like it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 April 2012
'In a Silent Way' is without doubt one of the most beautiful and intriguing albums in the jazz canon.It fully deserves all the praise and attention that it has received over the years. There is no greater praise then to say, this set rivals Mile's 'Kind of Blue' in terms of its originality of conception and sheer mastery of performance. Here Miles skillfully combines the rhythms of funk,the directness of rock with the ethereal musings of electric keyboards,saxophone and trumpet to create a music that is simply beyond category. And despite the fact that the album came out first in 1969, it still sounds invitingly fresh and genuinely inspirational today,especially now that Sony have given it a 24 -bit remastering,sounding as it does so warm and alive, we could almost be in the studio with the band!

'In a Silent Way' is a Jazz-rock album with soul.It showed that jazz musicians could create complex layered music that could catch the ear with a memorable melody,a toe tapping riff or groove, yet still surprise and delight with moments of virtuosity or unexpected restraint.This album set Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter off in the their explorations of electric jazz in their band, Weather Report,while Herbie Hancock,Chick Corea and John McLaughlin stuck around to work on great follow up's like 'Bitches Brew', 'Big Fun' and my personal favourite 'Jack Johnson'. So if you want to know where modern jazz partially has it's roots 'In a Silent Way' is a good place as any to start.

'In a Silent Way' is truly a great piece of work- too good just for jazz fans like me to claim as their own. Five stars is not enough!
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on 18 May 2000
At the time of release in 1969,this was Miles'first major foray into the Jazz/Rock fusion mode, an area where he had merely dabbled before.Unlike some Jazz/Rock of this era,this album has aged remarkably well. Miles has a supporting band of truly top musicians playing a funky electric music that washes over you in friendly atmospheric waves. This music has been described as 'Space' music where the spaces in the sparing performances contribute as much as the actual notes played.Others have said it is'spaced-out' music.Whatevever,the playing is tight but the improvisation is genuine and truly free of all restraints.This is an album that improves on repeated listenings and is well worth exploring.
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