Miles Davis – In a Silent Way (1969)
Come the late 60s, Miles Davis was set to ignite the jazz world (I should say ‘music world’) by employing electric instruments into his ensembles. Fusion was born. And jazz (I should say ‘music’) would never be the same. When Miles Davis released the double album Bitches Brew in 1970 he was embraced by the psychedelic rock contingent, who enjoyed the funked-up rhythms and his free-flowing explorative style. (Miles Davis himself had been influenced by the music of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Sly Stone). But before that album crossed-over, he released this, his first official ‘electric’ album, and its monolithic importance cannot be overstated. This is an incredible album. Miles had already worked with the impressive line-up that included: Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Dave Holland on bass, Tony Williams on drums, plus the triple-barrelled guns of Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock on the electric pianos and organs. But he’d also gotten John McLaughlin on guitar. Add to that, Teo Macero handling production duties, who masterfully edited and constructed the album’s two long pieces from literally hours of raw recordings, and you’ve got all the ingredients for greatness. The moods and emotions that this work spans are truly inspiring. These players achieved a chemistry and balance that remains a lesson of pure Zen in the philosophy of jazz. Everyone ‘went electric’ after this album, but not all of them could pull off the same magic. It almost predates ambient music too, in its tender soothing star-trails of sound. Which means it also predates the advent of other off-shoot genres like Drone Music, Trip-Hop, Downtempo, Lounge etc. Maybe Miles didn’t see the future (as the saying goes), but he certainly helped create it, and define it. Again. He’d already pointed the way forward with Birth of the Cool in 1949, and again with Kind of Blue in 1959. Each decade, it seems, Miles was ready to change the world of music, and leave us all in his wake. Never looking back, he was already in the next sphere, demolishing expectations and inventing new ways of seeing and thinking, and of course listening. I guess he heard the future.
By Decoy Spoon