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Multiple Reviews

Miles of Miles: Nefertiti, In a Silent Way & Bitches Brew

By Published: May 15, 2010








Miles Davis

Nefertiti

Sony-Legacy

2009


Miles Davis

In a Silent Way

Sony-Legacy

2009


Miles Davis

Bitches Brew

Sony-Legacy

2009


Taken together, Nefertiti, In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, recorded over a period of slightly more than two years from June of 1967 to August of 1969, present a reasonably representational overview of the (r)evolution taking place in the music of Miles Davis at the time and which would soon go on to affect much of the jazz genre in general. Rereleased here in their '60s format, as long-playing vinyl records with original covers and without the alternate takes that have expanded current CD reissues, listeners are given the opportunity to experience this important music as it was first intended to be heard. And although the claim stickered to the shrinkwrap of each of these 180-gram audiophile pressings "that nothing sounds as good and as warm as a vinyl recording" is debatable, there is indeed a certain sound here that is stirring, even if the experience may be more nostalgic than auditory.

Nefertiti is one of the iconic trumpeter's greatest masterpieces, a middle period issue by his second classic quintet of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams that began edging towards a more nuanced impressionistic sound on its previous two releases, E.S.P. and Miles Smiles. Here, particularly on ethereal Shorter pieces like the title track and "Fall," the emphasis on dissonant harmony, suspended rhythms and group interplay and away from traditional timekeeping, accompaniment and soloing, still evident (although in a transformational manner) on pieces like Williams' "Hand Jive," Hancock's "Madness" and Shorter's "Pinocchio," point to the groundbreaking work of future releases that would truly alter the sound of jazz forever.

Noteworthy for its utilization of electric instruments and extended form, In A Silent Way was the trumpeter's second album to use the subtitle "Directions In Music by Miles Davis" on the cover, signaling his conscious desire to move away from the sound and structure of traditional jazz. The two side-long pieces "Shhh/Peaceful" and "In A Silent Way/It's About That Time" represent a new direction in music for Davis and jazz, one that is funky and groove-oriented. The addition of John McLaughlin on electric guitar and Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul on keyboards, expanding the Hancock-Williams rhythm section (with Dave Holland replacing Ron Carter on bass) presents a revolution in sound, one of expansive tonality in which the soloists are given a new freedom to express themselves within a slowly shifting sonic tapestry, unconstrained by confining harmonic progressions. The resultant sound, while now accepted, was a radical departure at the time, although one with such a soothing appealing mood that it could indeed be considered a 'quiet revolution.'

Bitches Brew, on the other hand, remains arguably the most radically revolutionary (jazz) album of its radical time, with everything—from its then somewhat obscene title to the Afrocentric painting adorning the double record's gatefold cover and Ralph Gleason's ee cummings styled lower case liner notes—pointing away from the comfortable status quo that the music's most conservative adherents cherished. Expanding upon the electric tapestry of In A Silent Way, the sounds are more jarring, with Miles' reverberating trumpet soaring to an out-of-this-world atmosphere and Bennie Maupin's dark bass clarinet, contrasting with Shorter's whining soprano sax (the only horn he plays on the date), contributing to the ominous tone that is central to the album's unsettling, ever-shifting groove. This is supplied by Dave Holland and Harvey Brooks' acoustic and electric basses beneath the swirling battery of electric keyboards manned by Corea, Zawinul and Larry Young, McLaughlin's distinctive electric guitar and an expanded percussion section: the dual drumkits of Lenny White and Jack DeJohnette and the congas and shakers of Don Alias and Juma Santos. Rightly considered the granddaddy of all fusion records, the concepts unveiled here have gone on to become accepted facets of popular music, causing audiences to forget just how earth shattering this date was when it first turned jazz on its side.

Tracks and Personnel



Nefertiti

Tracks: Nefertiti; Hand Jive; Madness; Fall; Pinocchio; Riot.

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; Wayne Shorter: tenor sax; Herbie Hancock: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Tony Williams: drums.



In a Silent Way

Tracks: Shhh / Peaceful; In A Silent Way / It's About That Time.

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; Wayne Shorter: soprano sax; Joe Zawinul: organ; Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock: electric piano; John McLaughlin: guitar; Dave Holland: bass; Tony Williams: drums.



Bitches Brew

Tracks: Bitches Brew; John McLaughlin; Sanctuary; Miles Runs The Voodoo Down; Spanish Key; Pharaoh's Dance.

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet; Wayne Shorter: soprano sax; Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul: electric piano; John McLaughlin: guitar; Dave Hollan, Harvey Brooks: bass; Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White: drums; Don Alias, Jim Riley: percussion.


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