Miles Davis improvises the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s ‘Elevator To The Gallows’

Ascenseur pour l’échafaud was the celebrated director Louis Malle’s feature film debut and starred Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet as lovers planning a murder. The two day recording session was held at Le Poste Parisien Studio in Paris on December 4th and 5th, 1957 and featured French session musicians René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot and Barney Wilen along with American drummer Kenny Clarke. After getting some basic cues and the key from Davis, the soundtrack was totally improvised while the musicians watched the movie on a screen.  The soundtrack seems to be a well-kept secret in the Miles Davis discography which is odd considering that the modal experimentations laid down for Malle’s film clearly led to what came soon afterwards in a similar vein, Milestones and his all time classic Kind of Blue album.

It could be argued that Malle’s cinematic style and the unique pacing and character of this particular film—which Miles obviously had to conform to in order score it properly—had a noticeable influence on his music. Jazz critic Phil Johnson described the Ascenseur pour l’échafaud soundtrack as having “the loneliest trumpet sound you will ever hear.” 

Miles Davis and Jeanne Moreau, Paris, 1957

Miles Davis watches Louis Malle’s French film noir, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (“Elevator to the Gallows”) and improvises his moody soundtrack score.  

Reposted from Dangerous Minds 


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