Complete in a Silent Way Sessi Box set, Original recording remastered, Import
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The Complete in a Silent Way Sessions, the latest episode in Columbia Legacy's vast project to reissue Davis's legacy in themed boxed sets, covers just six months, from late September 1968 to late February 1969. Davis was changing course (and group personnel) so quickly that half of Filles de Kilimanjaro is included here as well as a series of dates from which he chose to release nothing (much of it initially came to light after Davis had left the label in the early 1980s, while some of it gets its first airing here). All the music for In a Silent Way was recorded in a single day in February 1969 and later edited into final form by Teo Macero. Of the sessions running up to this one, a single date in September (with Chick Corea and Dave Holland taking over from Hancock and Carter in the Quintet) realised the two Filles tracks "Mademoiselle Mabry" and "Frelon Brun": the rest (three dates) all fitted into November and added both Hancock and Joe Zawinul to the basic personnel, with Jack DeJohnette taking over from Tony Williams on the very last November session. None of this music is remotely like that on Silent Way, primarily because Tony Williams has no interest in supplying the constant rock beat Miles was heading towards, and partly because Miles had still to embrace open form. These tracks were structured compositions, however free the improvisation sounded. By February all these issues were resolved and Miles, now committed to open form, was stacking up fragmented performances to be cut together by Teo Macero. Intriguingly, this set gives us the original incomplete sections as well as Macero's edits, thereby demonstrating how and where it was done. --Keith Shadwick
Top customer reviews
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.
This "complete sessions" set includes all the music recorded during this famous day, and in some later sessions, 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 and that period, from September 1968 to February 1969. While it's not all exactly the same sessions, it's all music of the same type, before the Bitches Brew period when the music, essentially with the same musicians, became a lot more aggressive.
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.
However, one thing is really quite sensational: the presentation of the "In A Silent Way" recordings in their unedited form, the way the musicians performed these pieces. For this was arguably the most revolutionary aspect of "In A Silent Way": the way the editing technique was used. Certainly, Miles Davis and his producer Teo Macero used editing before (for example on "Sketches of Spain", "E.S.P." and "Miles in the Sky"), but only in such a way that two or more takes of a tune were cut together to form one final master.
Two things were completely new about the way editing was used on "In A Silent Way":
1. The composition is not determined from the beginning, but the final form of the piece of music is generated by editing together multiple different jams (and not just different takes of the same composition).
2. Large parts of the same recording are repeated unaltered.
Especially the second point amazes: only if you listen very carefully, you will notice that the first 6 minutes and the last 6 minutes of "Shhh/Peaceful" are IDENTICAL (on "In A Silent Way/It's About That Time", it's the first 4 and the last 4 minutes). It is just a repetition of one and the same recording. As a consequence, you hear the same Miles Davis solo twice during one piece of music (!). Of course, this was (and still is) very unusual in Jazz, because Jazz is always about re-interpretation.
Another thing that strikes me about the editing is the fact that you hear almost every edit pretty distinctly on the original LP versions. And I am not quite sure if it was such a good idea after all to edit "In A Silent Way" and "It's About That Time" together, because in my opinion, the two tracks just don't really fit together.
So I think it is nothing less than fascinating to listen to these wonderful recordings the way they were performed. I for one think that this is reason enough to get this box set. It is most interesting to hear the original theme of the Miles Davis composition "Shhh/Peaceful" that features a beautiful melody played together by Miles, Wayne on soprano and John McLaughlin on guitar. In the final cut, Teo Macero edited out all composed parts, creating the illusion of a steady beat that went on for more than 18 minutes.
On the other hand, I have to say that not every note contained in the box is a "must have" (which is especially true for the second half of disc 1) and that's why I gave only four stars. However, for someone truly interested in Miles and his development, this box can be very interesting.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
My first beef with it is the title. How can it be called "The Complete Sessions" when, after making a point of telling us about some unreleased interludes they fail to include them? A minor quibble yes, but when you tell me Herbie and Chick play some "Sgt. Pepper's" flavored snippets, I want to hear them whether they have anything to do with the rest of the tunes or not. The liner notes are fascinating, but nearly illegible. The combination of the microscopic font and the ridiculous psychodelic background art makes reading it a chore.
But if your a fan of Miles or John McLaughlin you must get this set. You will flip when you hear "The Ghetto Walk."
So why buy the box set instead of the single disc? The included contemporary tracks by this group are charming, displaying subtle nuance that would later be lacking from the more muscular presentations live at the Filmore, etc. And disc 2, with the original manifestations of "directions" and the raw "silent" material, is radiant beyond belief. It's like has never been produced before or since.
If you're just getting your feet wet with Miles, the single album is a great place to start (along with Kind of Blue). For those with a strong appetite for the beginnings of his last great creative burst, the boxed set, with it's excellent annotation, is a satisfying feast.
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