on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2022 3 Aug

In a silent way

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 10 Comments

Hard to believe now, to listen to this inkling and insistently groovy suite, that it was once thought so controversial to jazz listeners. I‘m speaking of Miles Davis‘ 1969 masterpiece „In A Silent Way“, mapping out a new space by stripping away most of the things normally looked at as being essential.


There‘s an overall airy feel to the two long pieces that feels weightier and lighter than its single ingrediences. It is a record that pushes the boundaries of studio possibilities, artist-producer relationships, and rock-jazz chasms. All fuelled by modal improvisation, an ambient flair of sounds flying by, and a fine sense of suspense in a zone where nothing much seemed to happen at all.


Some days ago, a guy called razorball sent me the 2002-Sacd-Sony-5:1-version of the album, and believe me, that surround experience is something to hold on, too. In my not so humble opinion, nothing, no dead quiet vinyl, no beautifully remastered cd, no stream with highest resolution data, can come close to the 2002 surround version of IASW.


Nighttime and velvet candles: When i listened to this Sacd (a collector‘s item that costed me 50 euros), a memory flooded my mind: Peter, Petra, Sylvia and I were sitting on a big couch and leather chairs in an Italian restaurant in Dortmund in 1971 or 1972, and we loved talking musics and books and movies and eating the best and largest pizzas in town and drinking cheap Italian wine. There were only two records running while we were there, Weather Report‘s „Sweetnighter“, and Miles‘ „In A Silent Way“.

I remember the dimmed lights there. Whatever we talked about, more than once we were nearly sumultaneously helding our breath, and just listened, listened, talked a while, and listened again. Peter was drumming on his legs, the girls were 
lovely, the corners dark, the sound warming. We were sweet sixteen, the background music turned to the foreground, and back again. As I said, nothing much happened, and everything (in a silent way).

This entry was posted on Mittwoch, 3. August 2022 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Brian Whistler:

    Yeah, In a Silent Way was a landmark. And one reason it was so successful was Teo Macero’s masterful editing, including the inspired editing out of the reoccurring written out unison break in Shhh. That break totally destroyed the freely flowing space that makes this album so listenable and cut it dead in its tracks. You can hear the unexpurgated version on the 3 CD set, which also includes a bossa nova version of the title track. Not nearly as bad as it sounds, but I’m glad they went with the one on the album.

    And yes, The surround mix is a keeper – like all great surround mixes, it teases apart the individual parts so that Chick’s Rhodes is in the rare left speaker and Zawinul’s organ dances in an out on the rear right. Herbie’s Rhodes is somewhere else – can’t remember at the moment. It’s all so atmospheric this way, as if the the original wasn’t atmospheric enough already. Bitches Brew in the deluxe Japanese remaster also includes an amazing surround mix. I finally starting feeling there was some space in that recording.

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    The same happened to me. The slight or tiny reservation I had with Bitches Brew was that kind of overload. With that fantastic quad mix (i think it‘s quad, or 5:1, doesn‘ matter) it opened up into all ways I could only dream of. The same with Live Evil. Killer surround!

  3. Brian Whistler:

    Havent heard Live Evil in quad but I can imagine the results would be equally stellar.

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Michael is a nice guy, working in the Army. Weeks ago he had a job in Alasca. I like his Life in Surround.

    Here his Miles In Surround Show.

    As a still quite young guy, he thinks of In a silent way as a fine good feel jazz album. That it is, too, but much more😉

  5. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I have a distant memory (these funny tiny things) that Brian Eno once whistled the melody of Shhh…Peaceful in an interview. When he lived in New York, he took a deeper look at modal improvisation, modal scales, discovered Jon Hassell, and obviously loved to listen to In A Silent Way and He Loved Him Madly.

    I sent him a mail telling this and that and a bit about how great it would be to have On Land in surround. He answered that a surround / Atmos version of On Land would be a wonderful thing, and he has to look where the mastertapes are… he thinks he know where they are…

    So , let us wait and see.

  6. Brian Whistler:

    I really think many of those Eno ambient series albums would really benefit from a 5.1 mix. As in most of them. I would certainly buy them separately or in a box set. They deserve the royal treatment.

  7. Michael Engelbrecht:

    An older blog entry:

    Now this will always stick in memory. Once upon a time, in March 1982, the month of its release, ON LAND found its way to my little house in deep Bavaria, on a hillside, a quite desolate no-man’s land for a townie, but fitting well to the haunting atmospheres of the album. It has been a companion of awe and wonder ever since then, and I really installed this ambient speaker system in my living room. Though it was definitely a tiny, ugly and cheap third speaker, I loved that experience.

    Now we live in different times, and surround systems are no longer that expensive. Thus a quad or 5:1-mix would be easy going, and, for a record like ON LAND, the perfect option.

    Brian had worked on the album quite a while during his New York years, and I was living literally at the end of a world, in Bergeinöden (the name of the village, no pun intended), with great music (Jazz by Post had been my favourite dealer), hot love, melodram, Neil Young in concert, weekend travels to Schwabing, my first Go-Betweens record, Julio Cortazar books, my salad days of volleyball, and no happy endings. But it was worth the trip, at least that‘s what I keep telling myself. Scary Monsters were all around, but somehow I managed to remain in light.

  8. Bernd L:

    Michael, works like Music for Airports, Apollo, The Shutov Assembly, Music for Space (that‘s the name, right, from the big Ambient Boxset?), and The Ship are begging for a surround treatment!!!

  9. Steve Tibbetts:

    Great writing. I can’t improve on that. You set a mood well. I remember those times.

    In A Silent Way and My Goals Beyond might be ECM’s parents.

  10. Michael Engelbrecht:

    What a tree of life / music.

    I always prefered the side with the two long pieces of „acoustic Mahavishnu“ to the solo guitar side. These two pieces were / are incredibly beautiful, and I asked myself back then, why didn‘t they so two more of this kind. But then John McLaughlin turned into the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and My Goals Beyond appeared like a prelude.

    In a silent way, yes, and The Jimmy Guiffre 3 from 1961, some far out chamber jazz…

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