Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Listening: Miles Davis — In A Silent Way

This guy's copy is in a little too
good condition for my taste.
Following another Twitter conversation begun by Ethan Iverson, I listened to Miles Davis's album In A Silent Way, always one of my favorites, three times in a row while having my coffee. My comment there was that it really is a perfect album, as much so as anything else in jazz— Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, anything else you'd care to name. The improvising is sort of backgrounded, and the writing is extremely minimal, so, famous as it is, it's not necessarily put in that kind of company. Some historically-minded people just regard it as transitional, others want more blowing and are bored by it.

If you spend a little time with the record, the reasons it is great are self-evident in the sound coming off the vinyl, and I'm not going to try to state them in English. It is a totally unique album; for all the “jazz/rock” and fusion that followed it, nobody (except for Miles, occasionally) does quite the thing that is on this record. Maybe Gil Evans comes the closest, here and there.

The background lore isn't really necessary, but you might want to read guitarist John McLoughlin's comments about playing his famous rendition of the track In A Silent Way; also, via Iverson, there's an article from Downbeat discussing the album, and some bad feelings between Tony Williams and Miles surrounding the recording session. One writer on Iverson's feed suggested that Miles whole purpose with his music in this period was to impress Betty Davis (née Mabry). While I don't believe that, it would be great if it were true, because it would prove that it doesn't friggin' matter why people do things.

Embedding for the YouTube video of the album has been disabled, so you'll have to follow this link to listen— or go to your record collection. Everyone is supposed to own this one.

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