Album Review of
A Silent Way

Written by Robert Silverstein
August 30, 2021 - 3:39pm EDT
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Back in 1969, jazz fusion maestro Miles Davis released his historic album In A Silent Way. It has been over 50 years since that breakthrough album, yet in 2021, N.Y. based guitarist Jim Yanda released a double album of fresh improvisational music, also called A Silent Way, that takes the spirit of Miles at his most unique to a whole different level. Jim released his double album Home Road back in 2017, so his fans should be quite eager to delve into the experimental fusion direction of A Silent Way. The Miles connection is not an accident on A Silent Way as Jim joins forces with long-time collaborators Herb Robertson (trumpet) and Phil Haynes (drums).

Speaking about the Miles connection, Jim explains “The connection is a little oblique, but it’s definitely there in the approach, the openness, which I think gives people a reference point to draw them into its world.” Not only does trumpet master Robertson gives the album another Miles-inspired reference point but Herb further peppers the album sound with his additional performances on synths and what he calls “assorted” instruments. Drummer Phil Haynes, an artist that also worked with Yanda on Home Road adds further verve and vitality to Yanda’s guitar-esque approach and improvisations, plus he is also credited with producing A Silent Way. Phil Haynes is a co-founding partner in Corner Store records, which Phil and Jim started back in the 1980s.

A most unusual follow-up to his 2017 double CD Home Road, the 2021 release of A Silent Way was recorded in the living room of Jim’s living room in New Jersey, although he has since moved to the town of Woodstock in Upstate New York. While the music for A Silent Way was recorded pre-pandemic in 2019, the serious editing of the album sessions fell to drummer Phil Haynes who, in addition to turning in a remarkable performance on his “drum set”  also assembled and structured the album sessions into what became a most unique-sounding double CD set. In the spirit of the progressive, avant-garde jazz groups of the 1970s, the music on A Silent Way is both compelling and challenging at the same time. For example, the sound of tracks such as “Consciousness” on disc one somehow merges jazz and rock guitar playing to come up with a totally unique sound while the sprawling “Odyssey” that closes disc one, is a veritable cornucopia of wildly ecstatic avant-garde sounds. CD two is equally as beguiling with further adventurous extrapolations that finds the trio recording in peak form, especially on the title track, that just sizzles with sonic suspense and rare musical interplay.

The title track, “A Silent Way” is simply a tour-de-force introduced by the most incredible percussive effects along with theremin type recorder sounds. Stretching out at just under 12 minutes, the song is further punctuated by Yanda’s intermittent, stabbing guitar sounds that almost serves as an undercurrent to the psycho-sonic overtones, care of the bizarre sounding instruments that Herb Robertson uses to change the overall mood and dynamic. It’s a good example of this particular bent into avant-garde land by Jim Yanda.

While noting all the bizarre sounds they conjure in each other’s company, Yanda, Robertson and Haynes clearly have a killer sense of humor. After listening to the sprawling sounds of A Silent Way, you’d be hard-pressed to find a trio of musicians with a more in-tune approach, while embracing the not-so-gentle art of jazz improvisation with a full music score that is described by the artists themselves as being "quiet to riotous". Those that have followed guitarist Jim Yanda’s one-of-a-kind music releases on his Corner Store label will find A Silent Way to be a most astonishing, ear-opening listening experience.