John McLaughlin and Chick Corea: In A Silent Way / It's About That Time

Here’s a recent, live all-star recreation of the entire backside of Miles Davis’ classic early fusion platter, In A Silent Way. For Joe Zawinul’s sublimely pretty melody, McLaughlin sensitively renders it as he did in the original, with Corea gently coaxing cozy accents from his electronic keyboards.

The temporary addition of Hancock to the Five Peace Band for this number is notable, as it’s the first time he, Corea and McLaughlin have played “In A Silent Way” together since they recorded the song with Miles back in January, 1969. The magic of the moment isn’t just rooted in symbolism: Hancock came as an equal participant. While McLaughlin muses over the theme, his attentive comping reads the guitarist’s mind like a book, and even leads the co-leaders into a brief, impromptu dark passage before McLaughlin signals the band to the “It’s About That Time” segment with that signature three-note vamp. Not long after that, the entire band is padlocked into the song’s solid rock groove while Hancock launches into one of his more spirited acoustic piano solos in recent memory. McLaughlin and Garrett make their own blue-ribbon statements later on, but Herbie had already stolen the show.

Rock-jazz these days has got nothing on this.

April 24, 2009 · 0 comments


Joe Zawinul & Wayne Shorter: In a Silent Way

The performance here is a loose dialogue between a soprano saxophone, played by Mr. Shorter, and a garden of electronic sounds cultivated by Mr. Zawinul. It won't make anyone forget the version these same two artists recorded 38 years earlier with Miles Davis, but it is an emotionally charged performance nonetheless—mostly because Zawinul would be dead a few weeks later. He was hospitalized five days after this concert, and would succumb to Merkel cell cancer on September 11. A wistful, nostalgic quality permeates the music, and Zawinul gives Shorter the kind of space to stretch out that the saxophonist rarely enjoyed during his Weather Report days. Shorter, for his part, offers a lesson in Zen jazz. This is a 14-minute track, but instead of Coltranian extravagance, Shorter works his magic with bursts of sound color and tonal splashes. At the conclusion of the performance, Zawinul offers some touching comments about his longtime partner, calling Shorter "the greatest living musician in the world." Yet this was an even more fitting moment to look back on Zawinul's own career, and his commitment to synthesized sounds, an advocacy in which he persisted long after the Age of Fusion had ended, and into a day when most of the other jazz keyboardists of his generation had returned to the good ol' piano. Even at this closing moment in his career, Zawinul was tinkering with his futuristic sounds and pushing the old songs into new directions. How fitting!

February 23, 2009 · 1 comment


Miles Davis: In A Silent Way / Shhh / Peaceful / It's About That Time

Make no mistake about it. There is controversy surrounding this recording. What the hell is a "reconstruction & mix translation" anyhow? The perpetrator in this case is the enigma known as Bill Laswell. In project after project, he attempts to turn music on its ear. He always believed that this early fusion from Miles had never been heard properly. I don't know what that really means. But I am not Bill Laswell.

For this medley from In a Silent Way, Laswell decided to go original producer Teo Macero one better. Macero was famous, or infamous if you prefer, for splicing the original tapes together without regard to beginning, middle and end. At any rate, it worked. The original "In a Silent Way" is a beautiful and lasting piece, as I said in my review here.

Laswell thought he could make the music work even better with new technologies and modern technological grace notes. The instruments have a warmer feel to them. Laswell has added some electronica atmospherics. The medley is now only 15 minutes long instead of its original 35. There is a distinct introductory section as beautiful as ever. There is a middle theme and a fulfilling ending. For many of us, those elements were already present in the original recording. But mad scientist Laswell has succeeded in presenting Miles's vision in a more distilled CliffsNotes fashion. Normally, that would be cheating. Here, however, it is enlightening. The nerve of this guy Laswell!

June 02, 2008 · 0 comments


Miles Davis: In a Silent Way / It's About That Time

Josef Zawinul's composition "In a Silent Way" is a remarkably beautiful piece of music. The initial shock and disdain felt by many Miles Davis fans back in the day has certainly faded away to such a degree that the structure of the piece can now be admired. This is despite whatever musical directions it may have spawned, good or bad. Much of its strange charm is the result of post-recording engineering, as it is full of abrupt edits. Yet however abrupt, these edits are never jarring. Davis and McLaughlin establish the subtle theme and play wonderfully off each other. Don't expect any swing here. The tune is laid-back and spatial in nature. No player takes more than his turn. In fact, Miles is noticeably absent for much of the affair. "It's About That Time," which is dropped in, is more electric and a slow-burn groove before it culminates in a rave-up. The tranquil, almost meditative theme reappears with McLaughlin, Shorter and Davis playing the definition of languid. This is a very important but still overlooked recording milestone.

February 08, 2008 · 0 comments


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