Ascenseur pour l’échafaud is an album by jazz musician Miles Davis. It was recorded at Le Poste Parisien Studio in Paris on December 4 and 5, 1957. The album features the musical cues for the 1958 Louis Malle film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud.Ascenseur pour l’échafaud is an album by jazz musician Miles Davis. It was recorded at Le Poste Parisien Studio in Paris on December 4 and 5, 1957. The album features the musical cues for the 1958 Louis Malle film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud.
Jean-Paul Rappeneau, a jazz fan and Malle’s assistant at the time, suggested asking Miles Davis to create the film’s soundtrack – possibly inspired by the Modern Jazz Quartet’s recording for Roger Vadim’s Sait-on jamais (Lit: ‘Does One Ever Know’, released as: No Sun in Venice), released a few months earlier in 1957.
Davis was booked to perform at the Club Saint-Germain in Paris for November 1957. Rappeneau introduced him to Malle, and Davis agreed to record the music after attending a private screening. On December 4, he brought his four sidemen to the recording studio without having had them prepare anything. Davis only gave the musicians a few rudimentary harmonic sequences he had assembled in his hotel room, and, once the plot was explained, the band improvised without any precomposed theme, while edited loops of the musically relevant film sequences were projected in the background.
In Europe, the soundtrack was originally released as a 10 inch LP on the Fontana label. In America it was released by Columbia as side one of the album Jazz Track (CL 1268), with the second side filled by three new tracks recorded with his regular sextet (later to be re-released on the 1958 Miles CD). Jazz Track received a 1960 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance, Solo or Small Group. The CD edition, released internationally by Fontana/Polygram in the late ’80s, contains the original soundtrack material, versions of the original album tracks without the reverb that was added to the initial release, and several previously unreleased alternate takes.
In the opinion of Romina Daniele, the musical mood and characteristics of the soundtrack immediately preceded and introduced Miles Davis’s subsequent records Milestones (1958) and Kind of Blue (1959).
Jazz and film noir are perfect bedfellows, as evidenced by the soundtrack of Louis Malle’s Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold). This dark and seductive tale is wonderfully accentuated by the late-’50s cool or bop music of Miles Davis, played with French jazzmen — bassist Pierre Michelot, pianist René Urtreger, and tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen — and American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke. This recording evokes the sensual nature of a mysterious chanteuse and the contrasting scurrying rat race lifestyle of the times, when the popularity of the automobile, cigarettes, and the late-night bar scene were central figures. Davis had seen a screening of the movie prior to his making of this music, and knew exactly how to portray the smoky hazed or frantic scenes though sonic imagery, dictated by the trumpeter mainly in D-minor and C-seventh chords. Michelot is as important a figure as the trumpeter because he sets the tone, as on the stalking “Visite du Vigile.” While the mood of the soundtrack is generally dour and somber, the group collectively picks up the pace exponentially on “Diner au Motel.” At times the distinctive Davis trumpet style is echoed into dire straits or death wish motifs, as on “Generique” or “L’Assassinat de Carala,” respectively. Clarke is his usual marvelous self, and listeners should pay close attention to the able Urtreger, by no means a virtuoso but a capable and flexible accompanist. This recording can stand proudly alongside Duke Ellington’s music from Anatomy of a Murder and the soundtrack of Play Misty for Me as great achievements of artistic excellence in fusing dramatic scenes with equally compelling modern jazz music. (by Michael G. Nastos)
Kenny Clarke (drums)
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Pierre Michelot (bass)
René Urtreger (piano)
Barney Wilen (saxophone)
01. Générique 2.45
02. L’ Assassinat de Carala 2.10
03. Sur L’Autoroute 2:15
04.. Julien Dans L’Ascenseur 2:07
05. Florence Sur Les Champs Élysées 2.50
06. Dîner au Motel 3.58
07. Évasion De Julien 0:53
08. Visite Du Vigile 2:00
09. Au Bar du Petit Bac 2:50
10. Chez Le Photographe Du Motel 3:50
Music composed by Miles Davis