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TOP 1000 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 17 June 2010
The MP3 download of this album has so much hiss and distortion it sounds like a field recording from the 1920s. Don't be tempted to try and get the (2-track) album for a knockdown price.
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on 30 July 2005
I'm no expert when it comes to jazz, often finding that a lot of jazz music tends to fade into the background as you listen to it. Fine, I suppose, for coffee bars or dinner parties, when the focus tends to fall more on conversation, though perhaps not so riveting for solitary afternoon listens or late night exploration. Often, I've found jazz to be more rewarding when coupled with a more experimental rock sound, keeping the notion of long atmospheric improvisations intact, but advancing further with ideas of rhythm, melody and momentum.
One of my favourite albums is the self-titled debut of former Talk Talk member Mark Hollis, which takes elements of a jazz template and merges it with elements of rock and folk. It is through Hollis and his work with Talk Talk that I discovered the music of Miles Davis, with many people citing the influence of albums like Miles Smiles, Kind of Blue and In A Silent Way on those two Talk Talk classics, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. If you're familiar with those albums, particularly the more subdued Laughing Stock, then you'll have a vague idea of what to expect from this album... with the influence of In A Silent Way also finding it's way onto albums as disparate as Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, Dead Bees on a Cake by David Sylvian, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Eno's Music for Films and Kid A/Amnesiac by Radiohead.
The music here is broken down into two tracks (although there are really four parts in total, or five if you count the reprise of the title track at the end) with the album opening with the epic improvisation piece, Shhh/Peaceful. The band that Davis had assembled for this album is immense, and, on the whole, would go on to help create the more dense and frightening sounds of his follow up album, the near legendary Bitches Brew. In A Silent Way is much more lethargic and (I suppose) more ambient (though that's a rather broad assessment!!) work compared to its follow up, though a few of the more tense instrumental arrangements do point towards tracks like Pharaoh's Dance and Spanish Key. However, on the whole, the album seems more like the natural progression from Kind of Blue into the kind of music that Miles would create for the latter half of his career.
The music covers a number of tempos, moving seamlessly from the lulled beauty of the title-track into It's About That Time, which is a little more robust. Miles was using three electric organs on this album, performed by luminaries like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, so the album has a sweeping, seamless sound that flows perfectly. Other musicians involved include Joe Zawinul on the third electric organ, John McLaughlin on guitar, Dave Holland on up-right bass, and Tony Williams on drums. The band is further complemented by Wayne Shorter's shimmering soprano saxophone, which adds the perfect balance to Davis's own astounding trumpet work (which is here, unrivalled).
The playing - right from the opening, hypnotic-slush of organs at the beginning of Shhh, right the way through to the interweaving trance-like horn-arrangements of In A Silent Way (which is the track that most pushes the similarities with something like Slim Slow Slider from Astral Weeks or the closing moments of Dick Parry's work on Shine On You Crazy Diamond) - is perfect, and creates a great atmosphere that never becomes stale. Miles and his producer Teo Macero arrange the album so that, even at it's most ambient, there's always something to hold our attention. Much of the music builds on Zawinul's organ, with a great dependency on the rhythm section of Holland and Williams. On top of this we get some great piano fills from Corea and Hancock, particularly on Peaceful, and some excellent and highly influential lead guitar work from McLaughlin (standouts abound throughout the second half of the album).
The music here manages to create a great atmosphere without substituting rhythm (take a listen to Miles' standout moment on It's About That Time to see what I mean)... whilst the use of instrumentation and the great approach to production (Davis and Macero using the idea of space and - unsurprisingly given the title implications - the use of silence and breaks to draw more attention to the notes being played!) is still as impressive as it would have been thirty-five years ago. It probably won't sound as revolutionary as it once did, what with other acts taking an influence from it, etc, though the music here is still expansive, rhythmic, intelligent and enjoyable... which is why In A Silent Way is one of those "jazz" albums that can probably be appreciated by people who don't necessarily understand or appreciate the genre.
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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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on 16 December 2002
Don't ask why - just buy it, you will not be disappointed!
This has to be one of the most sublime, chilled out albums of all time. Put it on, sit back and be transported to another place. The laid back electric piano grooves by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul are just spectacular.
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on 28 November 2012
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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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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 11 June 2004
I am of the opinion that certain albums are so very good that they should cost more to buy. This is one of those albums - should be priced at at least £100, and would still represent value for money. I bought this about 10 years ago after reading an article on ambient music in Q magazine - it is odd for a jazz album to be included, but then this is no ordinary jazz album. A 1968 summit meeting of chemically deranged hippy jazzheads might not sound like the most beautiful music you have ever heard, but you'll just have to trust me here. The only problem is - never lend your cd (once bought) to a drummer, they never give you it back. Having now bought IASW 7 times (6 on cd - only one copy still in my possession - one on Vinyl) I still don't think I've paid enough. Calm. Cool. Lush. Pastoral. Not forgetting that flash of steel which Miles always has up his sleeve. My favourite album by him or anyone else for that matter, and I'll lay bets my cd collection makes yours look a) rubbish and b) very very small.
Oh the boring bit: 2 tracks, one spliced together from two separate improvisations by producer Teo Macero, the musicians include John (Mahavishnu) McLaughlin (generally referred to as "God" round my house), Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock and some other people you'd only have heard of if you were either a muso or tremendously dull. Oh and its not as pretentious as I've made out - just perfect.... please buy it (or if you're skint I'll lend you it, I wouldn't expect it back!)
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on 22 July 2017
Ive been listening to Miles for some 40 years now & this is the start of his 'fusion era' & Im very pleased that he moved on from this. There's too much electric piano/organ which drowns the excellent trumpet playing MD contributes. I daresay opinion is somewhat divided & if you're expecting similar to 'Kind of Blue' then look elsewhere. Filed under 'give it another spin before it goes in the charity box'
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