Miles Davis’s 1957
soundtrack to the Louis Malle film, is the very sound of romance -
haunting, tender, and one of the most incandescently lovely of
jazz recordings. Slow stalking bass lines that are
interspersed with intense bursts of lush sound from Davis’s
trumpet, all spare phrasings and long beautifully drawn-out notes.
It’s Miles at his most romantic, where he gives in to all the
longing that can be expressed in music….there’s no holding back
here, and no sorrow in the plaintive wails of trumpet; the long
sobs are born in rapture.
Davis, Marcel Romano (who brought musician and filmmaker
together), Louis Malle
Davis met French director Louis Malle just two weeks before
recording the tracks on this album. The 25-year-old Louis
Malle’s debut feature film begins in classic noir fashion
with Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover Julien (Maurice
Ronet) plotting to kill her husband (Jean Wall) so that
they can spend their lives together: a plan and its eventual
unraveling. Malle’s idea was for the music to be
counterpoint to image. But perhaps the movie was just a
pretext to make such sensuous music. Davis and his musicians
recorded the entire soundtrack to
(Elevator to the Gallows) in one December session at the Poste
Parisien studio. Moreau was present as Malle projected a
continuous loop with scenes from the movie -- recreating the
film’s atmosphere for the musicians. Davis gave his
musicians minimal directions and asked them to “…play two chords –
D minor and C7 – with four bars each, ad lib…” and the rest was
strange alchemy. It was a remarkable collaboration between a
young Miles Davis who had not yet become a modern-day legend and
the French filmmaker who later directed Au Revoir les Enfants,
My Dinner with Andre, and Vanya on 42nd Street.
Tracks with poetic names -- Au bar du petit bac, Florence sur
les Champs-Élysées, and Chez le photographe du motel --
meld with Malle’s cinematic vision, but it's also as if Miles was
playing for himself, to some story of his own making.
Davis’s sultry, lonely trumpet in
'Générique' accompanies Jeanne Moreau as she
makes her way down a Paris street
in an almost mystical reverie in search of her lover—one of the
most ravishingly haunting tracks in cinema. The camera loves
Moreau’s luminous aura, but it’s Davis’s ethereally beautiful
notes that give the scene its resonance, that linger, and speak of
places far away from the film, some romantic space in the heart.
The album is all fits and starts, magic in the making. Of
the 26 tracks on the album, the last ten, numbers 17-26 comprise
the film’s original soundtrack.
pour l'échafaud, Miles Davis
pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)