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 during 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.
Release and reception
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).
Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] Review by Michael G. Nastos [-]
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.
Miles Davis: from buttoned-down Ivy League to Issey Miyake flamboyance
New biopic Miles Ahead celebrates the life of one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. But the jazz trumpeter was also a huge style icon, going from birth of cool preppy chic to Gucci-style glasses via a leather jacket that saved his life ...
Wed 20 Apr 2016 15.53 BST
Blue is the colour of the sky – and also of cool and melancholy understatement. So naturally, it’s synonymous with jazz, especially through 1959’s A Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, the bestselling jazz album of all time.
According to the 2008 BBC documentary British Style Genius, soon after the release of Milestones in 1958, every cool cat in London, including a young Charlie Watts before he became the Rolling Stones’ drummer, was wearing a green button-down shirt. Back then, jazz album covers (especially those by artists such as the Modern Jazz Quartet, Chet Baker and Miles Davis) doubled up as fashion plates, communicating a new style and attitude to the first generation of London mods.
The improvised, laid-back elegance epitomised by Davis’s new take on jazz was reflected in the way he dressed. Gone was the regal swagger, broad lapels and even broader shoulders of earlier band leaders such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and in came the narrow lapelled, soft-shouldered jackets and slim-cut, flat-front trousers of the American Ivy League. These were worn with Bass Weejun loafers and button-down shirts and knit ties from Brooks Brothers. It was a look that combined low-key American conservatism with a comfortable fleet-footedness.
“It was the new culture coming in after the war,” says Simons, a shop that pioneered this look in London. “Visually, it was a uniform that went hand in hand with music and art, particularly abstract art. It was new and interesting and in it’s own way egalitarian. Everyone could avail themselves of this look.”
During a flashback to this period in the forthcoming Davis bio pic, Miles Ahead, starring Don Cheadle, Davis describes himself as dressing “as clean as broke dick dog”.
Today, almost every commercial menswear brand, from J Crew and Uniqlo to Ralph Lauren and Gant, serves up a version of what the original jazz modernists wore in the 50s. The Ivy League look also spread to Japan, where brands such as Beams, Kamakura and United Arrows make clothes to the same exacting specifications as they were in the US.
That alone would have been enough to carve out a place for Davis on the Mount Rushmore of men’s style. But instead, in a move that would appall jazz purists, Davis flew headlong into the late 60s and early 70s with a new sound and look that jettisoned cool modernism in favour of a wildly flamboyant bohemianism, in part inspired by his friend Jimi Hendrix.
The albums Bitches Brew and In a Silent way are emblematic of this era, and his signature look comprised loose Indian shirts, suede pants from the young African-American designer Stephen Burrows and dashikis. Later on, he wore huge bug-eyed sunglasses, optical art for the face that reinforced his otherworldly charisma. All of which can be seen in one form or another on the men’s and women’s Gucci catwalks.
Miles Ahead catches up with Davis in 1979, and the clean-cut elegance of the 50s and 60s seems not only like another time, but from an entirely different planet. However, it is one that is relevant to men’s fashion in 2016.
“We’re seeing men loosen up again after a period of strict conservatism in menswear,” says Timothy Everest, a tailor who counts the Rolling Stones as clients: “The 70s are an easy decade to knock, but lots of what was happening then had very precise historical references but done in a very exaggerated, pimped out way. I like Miles Davis’s look during this period; it’s a kind of dysfunctional tailoring.”
Davis arguably invented hip-hop swagger before Puff Daddy et al were even born. In his 1989 biography, co-written with Quentin Troupe, Davis describes being pulled over by the police outside the Plaza Hotel, ostensibly for not having a registration sticker. However, Davis believes the real reason may have been because: “I was sitting in my red Ferrari, dressed in a turban, cobra-skinned pants and a sheepskin coat, with a real fine woman.”
Davis also survived a drive-by shooting in 1969 in the same red Ferrari. This time he was rocking a loose-fitting suit made out of leather: “If it hadn’t been for that leather jacket and the fact they shot through the door of a well-built Ferrari, I would have been dead.”
Fortunately he lived long enough to make a comeback in the 1980s, dabbling in the nascent hip-hop culture and discovering Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake and Kohshin Satoh, for whom he modelled with Andy Warhol in 1987, before his death in 1991.
Joe Casely-Hayford of the father-and-son design duo Casely Hayford says: “He was always changing and evolving. He was well versed in culture and this enabled him to constantly create and develop different aspects of his persona. I’ve been influenced by his lack of creative boundaries. His album covers or paintings provide as much inspiration as his wardrobe.”
And perhaps it’s this ability to switch it up that is his true legacy and inspiration. “I love the way he could redefine himself for each decade and this is a trait I have aspired to. He will continue to present a new and relevant signature style for each generation. The mark of a true genius.”
Miles Ahead is a 2015 American biographical-drama film directed by Don Cheadle in his feature directorial debut, which Cheadle co-wrote with Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson, which interprets the life and compositions of jazz musician Miles Davis. The film stars Cheadle, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Ewan McGregor, and closed the New York Film Festival on October 11, 2015. The film takes its title from Davis's 1957 album.
Cheadle took a free-form approach to the film's narrative. Skipping around in time, it depicts Davis' attempts to get his career back on track following a period of inactivity and drug addiction in the 1970s, fictional adventures with a journalist (played by McGregor) who wants to profile him, and his troubled marriage to a former dancer (Corinealdi). The film's score covers, in non-linear fashion, Davis' actual recordings throughout his career, beginning with Agharta (1975) before jumping back and forth in scenes featuring Kind of Blue (1959), Someday My Prince Will Come (1961), Bitches Brew (1970), and We Want Miles (1981), among others.
Miles Ahead received mostly positive reviews from critics. Reviewers generally praised Cheadle's direction and performance, although some were critical of the plot. The film has grossed over $5 million.