In December of 1957, Miles Davis journeyed to France to record the score to the director Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows— alternatively known as Lift to the Scaffold). The recording, which featured American drummer Kenny Clarke and French session musicians René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot and Barney Wilen, is noteworthy because it was totally improvised while the musicians watched the movie on a screen. The movie itself — Malle’s feature-film debut — is described by critic Terrence Rafferty as a “richly atmospheric thriller of murder and mistaken identity unfolding over one restless Parisian night.” In this photo, Davis entertains the film’s star, the French actress Jeanne Moreau.
The cover to the soundtrack
A lobby card
Miles Davis performs music from the film