“Ascent”, which begins disc two, is where Zawinul begins to have a real impact on the proceedings, because it’s the first composition he contributed. And it’s a lovely, ambient piece (note, Brian Eno fans, this is perhaps the first modern ambient song ever recorded).
The next Zawinul piece, “Directions” (I and II) is another milestone, for it’s here where Miles replaces Williams with another great drummer, Jack deJohnette, and his first assignment is to propel “Directions” with an urgent, hard rocking rhythm. The song also has a recognizable theme providing a touchstone between extended solos and was in the Davis concert canon for years to come.
The remainder of disc two is unedited/rehearsal versions of the songs that ended up on the final product. These February, 1969 sessions ushers in the John McLaughlin era and for the first time, Miles found a guitarist who fit his vision to play the instrument without any preconceptions. It’s also here we finally get to hear the “clutter” of chords Davis removed to leave us with the sparse structure of the release versions. And while Miles achieved his aim of starkly beautiful music, what was left on Macero’s cutting room floor remains far more interesting than much of all the other experimental music being created at that time…largely because it sounds suspended from time.
And lastly, the Officially Released In A Silent Way album is the third disc.
These recordings offer an intriguing glimpse into the musical mind of Miles Davis in a way my words can't come close to describing. The changing cast of musicians were all among the best in the business at the time, and do a great job in making the old master's vision a reality. Just about everything Miles Davis has recorded since then is rooted in this product of four months in the studio. And arguably, so is just about all of fusion from everybody else, for that matter.