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Boxed set catches Miles in transition

Cam Miller

The Complete “In A Silent Way”


Miles Davis

Columbia Legacy


Miles Davis was enigmatic, esoteric, eccentric and egotistical. But he was also one of jazz’s great innovators and trumpeters as well. Just as important, he left footprints wherever his musical journeys took him whether it was manipulating mainstream to suit his fashion or messing around with modality.

So, it’s always interesting to look back on Davis’s work, and this three-CD boxed set is particularly interesting because it captures the musician in a transitional period. Namely, at a time when he had begun to incorporate rock and funk into his music – much to the joy of some and to the chagrin of others.

The 17-track collection, which takes its name from a 1969 studio date at which music was recorded for the vinyl, “In A Silent Way,” covers studio dates during a six-month period in 1968-69. However, some of the material was not released in LP form until much later and, eight cuts in this set were not released at all.

The sessions see the gradual dissolution of Davis’s legendary quintet – tenorman Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Tony Williams and the leader.

As a result, Hancock and Carter are replaced on the opening pair of tracks, (“Mademoiselle Mabry” and “Frelon Brun”) by electric pianist Chick Corea and bassist Dave Holland, although Hancock is heard playing electric piano later on “Two Faced” and “Dual Mr. Anthony Tillman Williams Process.”

Organist Joe Zawinul, better known as a pianist, joins the group for the previously unissued “Splashdown” that puts a wrap on the first disc.

The second disc is highlighted by “Ascent,” a Zawinul contribution, the two-part “Directions” and collection’s crowning glory, the full proceedings of a recording session that produced 40 minutes of music with guitarist John McLaughlin aboard. And the so-called “In a Silent Way” gives listeners an expanded “Shhh/Peaceful” that runs slightly more than 19 minutes, as well as a shorter version; an expanded “In A Silent Way”/”It’s About That Time” and LP cuts of both.

The 27-minute “Ghetto Walk” dominates the third disc – the selection is very long but also is highly inviting – that also includes Zawinul’s “Early Minor” and a return to “Shhh/ Peaceful” and “In a Silent Way”/”It’s About That Time.”

A 96-page booklet, replete with photos and insightful commentary, complete the splendid package.

Cam Miller is a free-lance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Wy,Grass Valley, 95945.

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