Record of the Week: Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (Sony Legacy 180g LP)

Arguably one of ace trumpeter and jazz legend Miles Davis’ most iconic albums, In A Silent Way is the kind of set that demands repeated, rapt listening. And even then, each encounter reveals something new: intricacies, subtleties, musical dialogues, elusive details that all too easily escape merely cursory listening.

Davis is the undoubted star of this show – the creative cement that binds the often seemingly divergent themes, rhythms and melodies together. His trumpet is majestic and triumphant, soaring above the often turbulent sea of moods and grooves, tempos and themes presented by his backing band.

And what a band it is: after Davis, eloquent guitarist John McLaughlin is perhaps the most prolific contributor, his riffs and interpretations continuously seeking out reaction from his collaborators.

Wayne Shorter’s tenor sax shines with a fiery brightness that can stand its own against Davis’ tempestuous trumpeting. And then there is keyboard trio of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Josef Zawinul, sometimes battling for supremacy, sometimes engrossed in sublime conversation, with Zawinul’s Hammond particularly prominent.

Easy to underestimate because their contributions are more subtle are the measured, muscular acoustic bass of Dave Holland, and the consistent, at times even delicate percussion of drummer Tony Williams.

The music, while not unstructured, is best described as a freeform soundscape, adopting and expanding theme after theme. There are only two tracks – one per side – but each embraces a multitude of moods, grooves and melodies, some almost anthemic, others more ethereal.

There is no formal structure, although the outfit always sounds taut and in perfect equilibrium. Each artist is afforded sufficient creative space to interpret melody and rhythm, but there is also potent cohesion and a common sense of creative purpose.

Originally released in 1969 on the Columbia label, this Sony Legacy reissue on pristine 180g vinyl sounds clean and clear, with a generously dimensioned soundstage that ensures full access to every facet of the meticulously recorded, if densely arranged performance.

The cover is true to the original, down to the sleeve notes on the back cover. A must for every music lover – and not just jazz fans, or Miles Davis aficionados, either.

Performance: 9
Recording: 8
Pressing: 8
Artwork/cover: 7
Price: R340
Supplied by Audio Nut.