“I discovered jazz in 1966.
“I was listening to radio station KJAZ; the Cannonball Adderley Quintet was playing Joe Zawinul’s composition, “74 Miles Away.” It immediately set me down the path to my current musical career. Little did I know at that time that jazz was on the brink of perhaps its most exciting evolutionary phase.
“Miles Davis eluded me for awhile. His great quintet of the ’60s was just sophisticated enough for it to take some time for me to appreciate it. But, by 1968 and the release of Files de Kilimanjaro, I “got” Miles and was completely hooked. He became an inspiration and probably the greatest musical influence on my life. From there I moved backwards through the jazz history to discover the cool Miles, the bebop Miles, the Miles that had changed the direction of jazz several times. By 1968 I was in sync, so to speak, when Miles once again changed the face of music.
“The subsequent output from Miles was to profoundly shape my musical vision. In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and the numerous records that followed epitomized to me the purpose and nature of music at its finest: the exploration of new ground while never losing a strong communication through great rhythms, exciting harmonies and exotic melodies. The willingness and desire to be widely influenced by looking outside of one’s own genre and bringing those elements to one’s work went a long way toward shaping the music of the future.
“In the early ’90s I had returned to the world of acoustic jazz. It was an area I had never fully explored, especially on record. I wanted to spend some time writing and performing in that genre. However, by 1995 I found myself missing electric music – the high impact, the excitement, and the kind of joy I had gotten from listening to Miles’ efforts from 20 years earlier. This music had been a large part of my life in garage bands and jam sessions, but never (with one exception) had I ever officially presented it to an audience. The exception is worth noting as it may be seen as the first performance of The Silent Way Project.
“I was in Washington, D.C. at the end of a grueling tour with Peter, Michael and Doug. We were tired and needed a point of inspiration, so I said, “Let’s start with Jack Johnson and see what happens.” What followed was a completely unplanned homage to this music covering not only Jack Johnson, but In A Silent Way, Milestones and Jean Pierre. It even included what was to become my composition “Internet.” It was one of the best gigs we had ever done!
“So I put together a band to play and perform that music. We played a weekend a month over a period of two years, and about halfway through I realized that this was becoming an exciting band finding its own voice. I began to record the concerts. We recorded six weekends-12 concerts, 24 sets, more than 30 hours of music! The final recordings were taken from three different weekends between January and October, 1996. The editing took place over a period of several months-starting with a quick 30 minute demo-and continuing through many experiments, leading to the night before the mastering session. Towards the end of this process, I read the liner notes to the box set re-release of Bitches Brew and was fascinated to discover that those recordings had been created in a similar way: recording many hours of music and using editing to help define form and structure.
“The purpose of this project was to have fun, to play music that we as a band love and has inspired us, while celebrating some of the most influential and groundbreaking music of our time. Such music dared to break many barriers and exemplified a freedom that is an essential quality to any art, regardless of genre.”
-Mark Isham, February 1999