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Miles davis

 
 

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

   

 

Miles Davis’s 1957 Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, 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.

 


Miles 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 Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (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.

  

 

Listen: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, Miles Davis

 

See on Youtube: Générique

 

See the Movie: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)

 

Tags: paris

 


 

 

 

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