Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, May 03, 2013

To Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud at Hallwalls last night. I've wanted to see it for years, Louis Malle's first feature. (He made a documentary with Jacques Cousteau before that.) My first awareness of the movie came with Miles Davis' soundtrack, an essential recording that captured Miles as he was transitioning from post-Bop into the modal "Kind of Blue". The story about the soundtrack is that Malle showed Miles a rough cut, Miles worked out some ideas for themes, showed them to the band he was working with, and then they improvised while the scenes were being screened in front of them. It is an unusual way to work, but because everyone in the room was a genius it works really well. The other cats on the date-- with the exception of Kenny Clarke, have always been obscure figures to me: Barney Wilen – tenor saxophone,René Urtreger – piano, and Pierre Michelot – bass. They deserve greater notoriety. This was the European quintet that Miles toured with back then, and they played together quite a bit, although their time together does not seem to be much documented. All of them worked with the best, and it is plain to me that Euro-jazz is going to have to be a subject for further research on my part.

Ed Cardoni, Hallwalls' director, is curating this series and deserves props for doing a fine job of it. I'd love to teach this movie-- Malle does so many subtle things so beautifully. It's a taut little thriller without a wasted frame in it.

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