Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In A Silent Way Sessions

I've been going back to the Complete In A Silent Way Sessions box lately, transcribing tunes of interest. Lots of good composing, and great playing (considering they were likely sight-reading most of these). Next up on the docket are "Splash" and "Splashdown" but we'll see how far I get in those!

Throughout the late 1960's, Miles Davis and his group was intensely exploring new compositional methods. The 2nd quintet had delved into modern, non-functional harmony (see "Circle" and "Fall") free jazz (see "Orbits", "Dolores", etc.), and rock (see "Freedom Jazz Dance" and "Eighty-One"). By the time of Filles de Kilimanjaro, Miles was writing complex linear song forms, with modal solo sections stuck in the middle.

Up until 2003 it was generally assumed that this tendency fell away in 1969 as Miles went completely modal. But the recent release of unedited session tapes tells a different story.

Miles Davis - Shh, Peaceful

The song form is almost completely obscured by editing on the album version. But listen to the version on the box set and you'll hear a fully-formed composition, with modal solo sections, just like "Frelon Brun".
For the uber-uber-nerds, here's an interesting piece of history: Miles' own lead sheet of the tune. I used it for parts of the transcription above.
The last three bars of system 5 resemble the descending chord progression that is heard on "It's About That Time", but the bassline is nowhere to be found. Maybe this sheet of music was the source material for the entire recording session, not just "Shh, Peaceful"?

In any case, this tune was recorded on February 18, 1969. Peter Losin's always-useful Miles Ahead website also includes a breakdown of how the master take was edited for the LP version. Check it out!


  1. Love your work. Can you tell me where you got Miles' original chart from? is there any more stuff like that?

    1. Hi njh - I got this from a Miles Davis listserv sometime ago. Must have been back in '02 or '03. Unfortunately I don't have any more like it. Glad you like the site!

  2. Anyone got any insight re the chord sequence in the original recording of "It's About That Time. To my ear, the one transcription I've looked at ( is a good approximation, but something is missing in the last chord (spelled acdf/eb in halfnelson's transcription. I've puzzled over this all morning. Any good ideas?

    1. Hi Patrick -- thanks for your comment. I'll give it another listen and get back to you.