Float Into the Ether: Gorgeous 1969 Experimental Treasure Among the Most Atmospheric Jazz Albums Ever Recorded
Delicate, Immersing, Dynamic: Mobile Fidelity Reissue Magnifies the Bold Textures, Soothing Ambience, and Transcendent Moods
Davis First Fusion Album Features John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, and Tony Williams
Sketches of Spain, Kind of Blue, Milestones, Round About Midnight, and Four & More Also Available from Mobile Fidelity
Shhh. The command to be quiet is no just part of the title of one of the two sprawling compositions on this pioneering album. Its also an apt metaphor for the relaxed hypnotism and spaced-out atmosphere that define In a Silent Way, a record that pushes the boundaries of studio possibilities, artist-producer relationships, and rock-jazz chasms. Recognized as Miles Davis first full-on fusion effort and part of his electric era, the 1969 landmark claims a Whos Who lineup that sends the music into an ethereal stratosphere.
Part of Mobile Fidelitys Miles Davis catalog restoration series, In a Silent Way now immerses the listener in linoleate landscapes starlit by the intuition, suspension, and paradoxes wrought by a once-in-a-lifetime collective. Half-speed mastered from the original master tapes and pressed at RTI, this unsurpassed 180g LP edition lifts the veil on the cutting-edge assembly process that created the pair of lengthy suites. Helmed by three electric instruments, the beveled compositions melt away all preconceived notions of jazz, rock, and ambience, following a loose theory Davis dubbed New Directions.
Few albums are so delicately textured. And on Mobile Fidelitys meticulous analog reissue, such sulcate elements pour over ink-black backgrounds on a canyon-wide soundstage. In particular, Tony Williams inventive percussive touch he causes the cymbals to shimmer as a pieces of silver tend to do when exposed to sunlight is broadcast with lifelike three-dimensional qualities, the panoramic view extending to Davis nocturnal trumpet, Wayne Shorter's ribbon-unfurling saxophone, Dave Hollands extrapolative bass, and the mosaic of keys.
If the records only accomplishment is its introduction of guitarist John McLaughlin to the world, it alone would be enough. Yet In a Silent Way continues to bedazzle, puzzle, and inspire for myriad reasons not the least of which is the seemingly telepathic communicative methods employed by the groups members. The lineup is great on paper, but, if its even possible, the octet sounds even better in practice, with the instruments and tonalities conjoining in avant-garde communion like hyper-sensitive tentacles exploring the stippled landscapes of an undiscovered planet.
Diverting from expectation, tubular grooves twist, turn, and spin, sometimes piling atop of each other, always shying away from structure and melody. Ellipsoidal solos provide hesitant guidance, ranging from Chick Corea's Fender Rhodes phrases to Davis decorative spirals. And as color is the primary unit of currency on Davis Sketches of Spain, laidback episodes, geometric spaces, and quiet sensuality reign here, with the sets maverick reputation attained via musings on solitude rather than explosions of noise.
Controversial for the period, the heavily edited production of In a Silent Way blew open the once-locked doors on what producers could attempt and how artists could assist them. Knitted together as one would construct a cross-hatched quilt, songs contain grafts of repeat passages that provide unifying structure and experimental continuity. What a statement.
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2. In a Silent Way/Its About That Time