Monday, October 5, 2009

Before Kind Of Blue

Miles Davis (trumpet, b. 1926 - d. 1991)

L'Ascenseur pour l'echafaud. So the only Miles Davis record you have is Kind Of Blue and you ask yourself "What Miles album should I get next?" Well I would suggest looking at what Miles was thinking before he recorded Kind Of Blue. Most critics and jazz fans would suggest Milestones (Columbia, 1958).

While that is the conventional wisdom, I would like to take a look at the record that came just a few months before Milestones entitled L'Ascenseur pour L'echafaud (Lift To The Scaffold) (Verve Records, 1957). This was a soundtrack Miles recorded while in Europe but did not consist of his then current band which would record Milestones. Lift To The Scaffold was a very challenging record for Miles in that he had to write and record material to accompany a film (something he hadn't done to this point). This challenge helped Miles focus on his lyrical style and his direction for his musicians in the studio.

The manner in which this richly crafted album flows would again be recreated on Kind Of Blue. You can hear similarities in the atmosphere of the both recordings on tracks like "Nuit Sur Les Champs-Elysees" and "Generique" with Kind Of Blue's "So What" and "Flamenco Sketches".

The film has been re-released on DVD and is fantastic with the combination of Miles' music. A compelling, dense and transcendent album, L'Ascenseur pour L'echafaud sounds more like a jazz album than a soundtrack which makes it a brilliant and timeless recording 52 years later. Highly recommended.

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