Exfiltration Radio: jazz in inner space

It’s that time again… time for the Godfather to grace you with an hour of weird music. Today’s playlist comes from the cusp of jazz’s transition into fusion and dives into the music that came around In a Silent Way, still one of the most revolutionary recordings in jazz.

In this 1969 record, Miles had reached the end of standards, the end of modal changes, the end of the post-bop revolution he had led with his second great quintet. He was listening to other innovators, working beyond jazz, especially Jimi Hendrix. And most importantly, he was continuing to surround himself with musicians who innovated, listen to them, and push them to take their performances beyond where they could on their own. (He also sometimes claimed authorship of those songs, but that’s a different story.)

The sound at the back of this new direction in jazz was the electric piano (usually a Fender Rhodes) fed into the echoplex and joined by musicians who were playing, as Miles said on the back cover of Zawinul, “cliché-free,” not relying on changes or modes but on rhythm and vamping and atmosphere and sometimes incredibly gorgeous scraps of melody that come and go in the middle of the track like smoke.

One of the things that’s hard to appreciate just by looking at the track titles is how much of this music was made by the same handful of musicians. Let’s take a look:

Herbie Hancock (electric and acoustic piano) plays on “Doctor Honoris Causa” (which Zawinul dedicated to him for his honorary doctorate from Grinnell), “Mountain in the Clouds,” “Opus One Point Five,” “Filles de Kilimajaro,” his own “You’ll Know When You Get There,” and “In a Silent Way.” Miroslav Vitouš (bass) is on “Causa,” “Mountain,” “Orange Lady,” and “Water Babies.” John McLaughlin (electric guitar) is on “Mountain” and “In a Silent Way.”

Billy Hart is on “Causa” (percussion) and “You’ll Know” (drums). Joe Henderson (tenor sax) is on “Mountain” and his own “Opus One Point Five.” Jack DeJohnette (drums) is on “Mountain,” “Opus One Point Five,” and “Water Babies.” Chick Corea plays electric piano on “In a Silent Way” and drums and vibes on “Water Babies.”

The great Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) is on “Orange Lady,” “Filles De Kilimanjaro,” his own “Water Babies,” and “In a Silent Way.” Airto Moreira plays percussion on “Orange Lady” and “Water Babies.” Ron Carter is on “Opus One Point Five” and “Filles.” Tony Williams plays drums on “Filles” and “In a Silent Way.” And Joe Zawinul plays on “Causa,” “Orange Lady,” and his composition “In a Silent Way.”

It’s not surprising that some of the tracks seem to blend seamlessly into each other. It’s more surprising how distinctive the musical identity of each track is. Definitely worth an hour, and then many more checking out the albums these came from.

Do not adjust your set; there is nothing wrong.

  1. Doctor Honoris CausaJoe Zawinul (Zawinul)
  2. Mountain In the CloudsMiroslav Vitous (Infinite Search)
  3. Orange LadyWeather Report (Weather Report)
  4. Opus One Point FiveJoe Henderson (Power To The People [Keepnews Collection] [ Remastered ])
  5. Filles De Kilimanjaro (Girls Of Kilimanjaro)Miles Davis (Filles De Kilimanjaro)
  6. Water BabiesWayne Shorter (Super Nova)
  7. You’ll Know When You Get ThereHerbie Hancock (Warner Archives)
  8. In A Silent WayMiles Davis (The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions)

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