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Classic Album Review: Miles Davis | The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions

The maverick trumpeter’s pioneering jazz-rock fusion recordings are collected.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


The ends of decades tended to be turning points for Miles Davis — and, consequently, for jazz.

In 1949, the trumpet master released Birth Of The Cool, making laid-back swing the sound of the day; in 1958 he issued Kind Of Blue, revolutionizing jazz by eschewing melody for modal constructions. Ten years later, Davis was at it again. Over six months in 1968 and ’69, he rebuilt his sound yet again from the bottom up, replacing old-school sidemen with younger, hipper cats like Chick Corea, adding electric guitarist John McLaughlin to the band, and incorporating his clean, lyrical style into the funky, hard-driving grooves of ’60s artists like Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. Basically, he was inventing jazz-rock fusion. Much of the music he recorded during this era was edited together into 1969’s landmark In A Silent Way (which came just months before the undisputed masterpiece Bitches Brew), although cuts surfaced on various releases into the ’80s. This three-CD set — the latest in a series of deluxe Miles reissues — presents it all unedited, in chronological order, and accompanied by a few previously unreleased gems, leftovers, exhaustive historical notes and a bar-by-bar analysis of the music. Taken as a whole, the set not only re-examines one of Davis’s most fertile and revolutionary periods in illuminating detail, but also re-emphasizes his musical genius, influence and innovation. Oh, and it rocks, too. Magnificent music, magnificent sound, magnificently presented.