Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Miles Davis - Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud (1958, Verve)

Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) is an often overlooked chef d'oeuvre by the trumpeter just weeks after the recording of "Kind of Blue", and a fine illustration of a genius at the peak of his career. Miles was young, in love and living in Paris. He was often playing in clubs, proving his worth and making an international reputation for himself.

As a musician who has improvised film scores, its exciting for me to imagine Miles staring a the screen and transposing the images and emotions he was experiencing. This twenty-six track collection of muted horns, slowly walking basslines, delicate piano and careful drums cooperated with Louis Malle's camera in articulating each character's every move. This would later become the aural cornerstone of the Film Noir movement.

Its important to note that this is no solo effort. Barney Wilen's tenor sax is a counterpart to Miles' every note and Rene Urtreger comp's perfectly. Pierre Michelot's contrabass along with Kenny Clarke's drums breed a wild rhythm section that is blistering and unstoppable. At times it even seems as if Miles is hardpressed to keep up with them. Ultimately, all played crucial roles in backing Miles with no presumption. Together, they created an underrated gem of the Cool Jazz movement.

Jazz in Paris: Ascenceur pour l'├ęchafaud - Miles Davis


  1. one of my favorites miles albums, definitely an overlooked gem

  2. not to be nitpicky or anything, but it's more commonly translated as "elevator to the gallows", which is a little, uh, darker...

  3. Wow, that makes much more sense to most Americans. Thank you

  4. at that time France executed with the guillotine....so "scaffold" is surely more appropriate than "gallows".