Ascenseur pour l’echafaud By Miles Davis

I’m a Miles Davis fan so I was surprised to find this soundtrack from 1958. Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) is a moody and melodic soundtrack. Miles Davis plays well on this disc. There’s none of that “tuning up” awkward music here.

According to Wikipedia:
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.
1. Générique” 2:45
2. “L’ Assassinat de Carala” 2:10
3. “Sur L’Autoroute” 2:15
4. “Julien Dans L’Ascenseur” 2:07
5. “Florence Sur Les Champs Élysées” 2:50
6. “Dîner au Motel” 3:58
7. “Évasion De Julien” 0:53
8. “Visite Du Vigile” 2:00
9. “Au Bar du Petit Bac” 2:50
10. “Chez Le Photographe Du Motel” 3.50

29 thoughts on “Ascenseur pour l’echafaud By Miles Davis

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    Interesting. I don’t know it, but then I don’t know the movie either. According to Wikipedia, it was known as ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS in the US.

  2. Deb

    Apparently, the full movie was available on YouTube but was removed due to copyright issues. I was disinclined to click on links that said “click here to watch the movie,” so I guess it’s off to Netflix to see if they have it.

  3. Steve Oerkfitz

    It was the first full length film by Louis Malle(Atlantic City, My Dinner with Andre). Shows up on TCM from time to time.

  4. Todd Mason

    I caught it on TCM some years ago. Not too shabby…and that was the best period for Davis musically (evenif his atrocious behavior was also at its peak, aside from the eventual abuse of life partner Cicely Tyson. And I will keep flogging this as long as people keep going on about what a wonderful man, vs. musician at times, Davis was).

      1. Todd Mason

        Exactly. Those who worship him for his Style slightly bother me…those who hail him as a paragon are either woefully ignorant or simply stupid or evil. I will be more intransigent than Bob about HRC on this point. As hard as that might be to imagine. Even such other fonts of bad behavior in the jazz world as Charles Mingus were, A) less consistent about it, B) at least a little repentant about it in later life and C) not given a pass for it so utterly blithely. Not to mention, fwiw, was Mingus raised in the kind of comfortable circunstances Davis was. To me, still the most utter creep/ass in the history of jazz, and so few willing to acknowledge it wasn’t just Artist Foibles, when willing (or aware) of his behavior at all.

      2. Todd Mason

        Sorry, meant to write Mingus did not have the comfortable childhood Davis did. The latter the son of a dentist. Racism didn’t do him any favors, but unlike Mingus, he wasn’t physically deprived in his youth. And his spiteful (to put it mildly) behavior toward the women in his life, other jazz musicians, and more trivially audiences, among other pecadillos, are not heroic.

      3. Todd Mason

        Yes, probably. His behavior, however, was so abusive and extreme (and so enabled by sycophancy during his life and since) that neither he nor those around him deserve any sort of pass. Most such behavior bespeaks of at least extreme narcissism. Certainly Mingus, Pepper Adams, Chet Baker and others had similar problems and didn’t behave quite so consistently badly.

  5. Wolf Böhrendt

    That film was a big hit when it came to Germany in 1959 – we all went there (just turned 16 so we could see it) but I hadn’t realised until right now that Miles had done the music.
    A bit OT re Miles Davis:
    There is a collection of more than 50 CDs with his music – all the Columbia albums plus a DVD and a booklet – very interesting. My wife (we met in Hungary when we were both around 60 – a marvellous coincidence …) is also a big Miles fan and she was very surprised when I gave her this package (heavy as a brick) for Xmas.
    I also read his autobiography which clearly showed the US racism of those days.

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, you’re right about that Columbia 50 CD collection. It is as heavy as a brick! Nice coincidence that you and your wife both like Miles Davis’ music.

    2. Todd Mason

      Yup. Though as Dizzy Gillespie was moved to shout (!), in a plane as he read the book MILES for the first time, “You lying motherfucker!” Gillespie was a true gentleman, but not a pushover. Davis was something very much other than that.

  6. Deb

    Preach, Todd! When it comes to addiction of any kind (alcoholic, pharmaceutical, etc.), the question is always what came first–the selfishness that led to the addiction or the addiction that led to the selfishness. In Miles’s case, I think the general consensus is that (brilliant musicianship aside) he was a pretty sh*tty person from the get-go–and heroin didn’t help the situation.

    /And yet, I could listen to Kind of Blue all day and never get tired of it.

    1. Todd Mason

      Yup. But remember all the other musicians working with Davis there, including Bill Evans who taught that quintet about modal improvisation after learning it from George Russell. And KIND OF BLUE is a great album, just not the One Transcendent Jazz Album it’s usually credited as being. (It used to be SKETCHES OF SPAIN that was similarly overrated, and Davis given credit for the whole shebang when he was featured soloist with the Gil Evans Orchestra there.)

      1. Todd Mason

        Yup. I like PORGY AND BESS the best of the Gil Evans Orchestra featuring Davis records, but their great albums. Not the clearly best jazz albums ever that they are too often hailed as. But great. BITCHES BREW, on the other hand…well, it’s not bad.

      2. Todd Mason

        Wow. I must be getting punchy, or my diabetes meds are messing with me…they’re great albums. (My drug habit is taking its toll…now if only I wore white jumpsuits and ridiculous sunglasses while playing duller fusion that sounds remarkably like dumbed-down versions of the free jazz I was, out of pique and resentment of spotlight drfit, ten or so years earlier, so willing to destroy Ornette Coleman’s, Cecil Taylor’s and John Coltrane’s careers over, or at least try to–rather more effective with the first two, who hadn’t been able to establish themselves as long in the scene…)

  7. Roy Hovey

    Wow. Lotta fun banter. Barry Bonds was a jerk, but steroids or not, the best hitter since Ted Williams – or maybe ever. Miles may have been a jerk too, but he re-invented himself-and Jazz, over and over, and was a genius. I didn’t have to dine or play cards with him, so who cares what he was like! If it’s just one artist I take to the desert island, it’s Miles. OH, and George! I clearly recall a quote from you once in the 90’s maybe (?), something along the lines of “…I don’t much like jazz, and just don’t get it.” So wow, thrilled to hear you’re a fan now, especially of Miles.


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