In 2001, Columbia released a three CD set, The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions by Miles Davis (it was reissued again three years later). Not every box set containing a bunch of 18 minute outtakes is worth the $40-$50 asking price. But this one is.
This collection of recordings documents an important turning point in the history of jazz. To the innovative trumpeter it was literally the demarcation line between his acoustic, straight jazz up to that time and the electric jazz-rock fusion played almost exclusively to the time of his death in 1991.
The tracks represent his entire recorded output in chronological order from September, 1968 until February, 1969. It was during a period where Miles was on a major creative roll. He had seen his former protege' Cannonball Adderley become increasingly popular during the sixties when he blended R&B into his jazz. Miles wanted to reach a larger audience, too, but instead of looking to Ray Charles for inspiration, he used the music of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone for his own template.
The proceedings get started with a couple of recordings from the transitional Filles Des Kiliminjaro, where the electric piano is used in place of acoustic, but still sounding much like his prior work. Then there are tracks that never made it into any proper album and a few were previously unreleased altogether. Following those are the actual initial recordings for In A Silent Way. And finally, the finished recordings of IASW itself. Throughout it all, we see Miles start out still solidly on the jazz side and then move well into the rock side before finally settling on the perfect blend of the two. It's like being present in a mad scientist's laboratory as he cooks up a mind boggling invention. But there is absolutely no fluff, no filler, not even among the rejected tracks.
It was also during the middle of this time frame when Miles brings in Joe Zawinul from Cannonball's band and a little-known studio guitarist from England named John McLaughlin. Both helped to bring about an immediate change in his sound and move him along in the direction he wantec to go.