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Miles Davis - Ascenseur Pour l'Échafaud (Lift To The Scaffold) CD (album) cover


Miles Davis

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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3 stars This filled-to-near-capacity CD reissue is actually two albums: the original soundtrack to the 1957 film-noir directed by Louis Malle (translated title: 'Elevator to the Gallows'), and a generous collection of unused music and multiple takes from the same Paris recording session. The arrangement gives listeners a chance to compare the work in progress to its final realization, and the difference is dramatic, accomplished with little more than a tasteful application of atmospheric studio reverb.

The music itself, assembled over two days (with almost no preparation) by Davis and a quartet of local French jazzers, may be the quintessential film noir score. Listen to the opening 'Générique' theme for proof: a moody, late night urban soundscape so vivid you can almost smell the empty, rain-slicked boulevards, and see the slowly blinking neon lights reflected in the gutters. Check out too the probing trumpet cries of 'Assassinat', played over an ominous upright bass ostinato.

Elsewhere on the album ('Motel', 'Sur l'Autoroute') are some truly boppin' beatnik grooves, with the muted trumpet trading frenetic solo turns alongside tenor sax man Barney Wilen. Complete the experience with coffee, cigarettes, and optional black turtleneck attire.

The film was produced a full decade before Davis even began to contemplate a fusion of Jazz and Rock styles, and certainly bears no relation whatsoever to anything resembling Prog. The album was hardly groundbreaking, at least compared to the many other milestones (pun not entirely unintended) in Davis' career. But in retrospect it's the sort of traditional Jazz even a non- jazzer can dig, thanks to the evocative cinematic ambience in every track.

Report this review (#239500)
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I listened to this French re-release of Original Soundtrack from late 50-s with a quite mixed feeling. First of all, this recording was made more than half a century ago, it's a huge period of time! Than - it is a chance to hear future genius Miles Davis on his daily work - this album was recorded just in few days and for sure was more commercial project for Davis, than some important step in his musical career.

In fact, I got there what I expected. Miles Davis plays real soundtrack -oriented music, with his mastership, but without any big ideas or experimentation. Just work for the money. Few unknown musicians support him in his gangster-bop, nostalgic sound of old movies. Atmospheric and often not without its own beauty, this soundtrack is a interesting example for collectors of Davis pre-progressive era. Whenever has no relations even with proto-fusion, this is listening for bop-lovers. But even them can find much better Davis albums from post-bop time.

Report this review (#280562)
Posted Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Film noir jazz at its best. This is much more stripped-down and sparse than you usually think of when it comes to Miles Davis' work, perhaps in part due to him working with a mostly French backing band instead of his usual suspects. Imagine Miles under a spotlight surrounded by pitch darkness playing mournful trumpet solos as something suitably noirish and/or Lynchian happens. Recent rereleases add a plethora of bonus tracks made up of unused and unreleased takes, which will be interesting to jazz historians but doesn't make for quite a good listening experience compared to the carefully chosen and nicely succinct original LP running order.
Report this review (#1602637)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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