“In a Silent Way” is for many Miles Davis’ magnum opus, the album that officially started the Fusion genre. Some may even say it’s the greatest Jazz record ever created, and as a matter of fact, if such a prestigious title would ever be officially labeled to any album, “In a Silent Way” would have a great chance in obtaining it. The famous musician just needed to get an absolutely stellar ensemble of musicians, almost all just as talented as he was, to reach such great heights.
As the first Fusion record, “In A Silent Way” starts off the genre quite smoothly: the music on the legendary album is quiet, peaceful, and never getting louder than it is. A record that for this reason might be a hard pill to swallow on the first spin, and might take several listens before it magically clicks. Fusion fans cannot deny that the basic, essential elements of the genre are present: electric guitars (by master John McLaughlin), electric keyboards (two legends, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea) and the organ are always strong characteristics of the album, all three instruments of course playing very smoothly and delicately. Miles’ trumpet is as usual sublime, haunting, with a seducing, sensual feel to it and with still a strong power of virtuosity. The crispy drums by Tony Williams give a suspended touch, while Dave Holland’s bass grumbles like a beast. Not to forget another great, Wayne Shorter on saxophone, even though admittedly his contributions are not as essential as the others.
The two tracks, that cover the entire space of the album dominate each side, starting with “Shh/Peaceful”, a relaxing, chill piece that remains of the same toned down mood for the entire eighteen minutes. The most curious thing then is how Miles managed it to sound constantly enjoyable. The song’s musicianship is flawless, ir has an innovating structure, almost identical to the second side: The first part, “Shh”, is somewhat climactic, where starting from an organ note almost all the instruments come in one at once a while before Miles’ trumpet steals the show. The song then evolves almost unnoticeably into “Peaceful”, the second section, with a great performance by John McLaughlin. The last minutes of the suite are dominated by repeating “Shh” identically. The second side, with the title track , has a very similar mood and feeling, however it is much more accessible in it’s form and more melodic sounding, with once again the repetition of the first part of the song in the final minutes.
“In A Silent Way” is a revolution in Jazz music, an album that at the same time never bores and always intrigues and fascinates. The electric Miles Davis will go on and create other masterpieces like “Bitches Brew”, but “In A Silent Way” is simply unforgettable, timeless, and still highly entertaining, even for someone who isn’t familiar with Jazz music.