Complete In a Silent Way Sessions
Remastered, Box Set
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|Audio CD, Box set, Original recording remastered, October 23, 2001||
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Complete In a Silent Way Sessions
Recorded and released in 1969, In a Silent Way was one of Miles Davis's most mysterious and elusive efforts. That was not only because the album, boasting one long track on each side, was so austerely understated, but also because it stood apart from the music that preceded it, the music the trumpeter was performing in concert, and the revolution that followed--a.k.a. Bitches Brew. Making use of multiple keyboardists--Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea on electric piano and Joe Zawinul on organ--the trumpeter multiplies tones and melody lines and complicates textures. His mold-breaking band, also including Wayne Shorter on soprano saxophone, Tony Williams on drums, and John McLaughlin on guitar, dips into rock and R&B, gospel and classical, electronics and creative editing.
The three-disc, misleadingly titled Complete In a Silent Way Sessions gathers a brace of material recorded during the months leading up to the making of the title classic, when Davis was making the transition from his great acoustic quintet (including Hancock, Shorter, and Williams) to more populous electric units, as well as formalizing his involvement in rock. It includes two songs from Filles de Kilimanjaro that were rudely left off the Miles Davis Quintet 1965-68 box set because they were performed not by the classic quintet but with new members Corea and Dave Holland. Strong subsequent efforts by the revised quintet not released until years later on odds and ends collections. You may drift off while listening to bonus "footage," including rehearsals for Silent Way, but two previously unreleased tunes command attention: the easy and sprawling 27-minute construct, "The Ghetto Walk," which reflects Miles's interest in Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, and "Early Minor," a Zawinul composition warmed by a Spanish sunrise. The extensive notes are informative, and the packaging, as always with the ongoing Davis reissue series, is classy. --Lloyd Sachs
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Disc 1 opens with the first session to include bassist Dave Holland and pianist Chick Corea. The languid, bluesy "Mademoiselle Mabry" and the furious boogaloo "Frelon Brun" are essential tracks from the classic album Filles de Kilimanjaro, and should really be heard in that context. Of the next four tracks, "Two Faced" is a lengthy post-bop exploration while the last 3 tracks are somewhat cheesy boogaloos (especially "Dual Mr. Anthony...") salvaged by genius of the musicians. The last track, "Splashdown", has never been previously released.
Disc 2 is where the music really starts to move to new territory. Joe Zawinul's composition "Ascent" is a beautiful though slightly unfocused tone poem, a clear predecessor of "In a Silent Way" and "Orange Lady". If you like the shimmering keyboard trio sound of In a Silent Way, you'll love this. On the other hand both takes of "Directions" fuse jazz improvisation with a pounding rock backbeat; though live performances of this tune are more intense, this version definitely has its charms.
Disc 2 continues with the actual In a Silent Way sessions and the first appearance of guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin: an amusing though inessential bossa nova version of Zawinul's "In a Silent Way"; the take of "In a Silent Way" that eventually appeared on the album; and Teo's original mixes for "It's About That Time" and "Shhh/Peaceful". The latter is a real surprise and gem -- it was originally a harder-hitting piece and Tony Williams played more than just the hi-hat!
It's disc 3, though, that makes this package worth it: first, two previously unissued tracks with the In a Silent Way lineup plus Joe Chambers on drums. "The Ghetto Walk" is a grooving, bluesy piece not unlike the Bitches Brew material, while "Early Minor" is a gorgeous ballad in the Silent Way mold. And then the original In a Silent Way album. If you haven't heard the delicate beauty of this album, you are really missing one of jazz's masterpieces.
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."