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Miles Davis Quintet: In Concert At The Olympia, Paris 1957

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Miles Davis Quintet: In Concert At The Olympia, Paris 1957
Another live Miles Davis recording. Well, once the studio outtakes have dried up, this is the only seam left to mine. Happily, with advances in sound technology, old radio broadcasts are increasingly being dusted down and treated to a little digital TLC. Since 1983, Fresh Sounds Records has been a leading light in reissues and archival releases (see Fresh Sound Records and the Legacy of Recorded Jazz), in addition to producing many hundreds of contemporary artists. This one from Jordi Pujol's Barcelona label has rarity value, representing the first unabridged release of Davis' concert at the Olympia, Paris, in 1957. At this historic venue, the trumpeter was backed by top French musicians and old sparring partner from Minton's Playhouse days, drummer Kenny Clarke.

The set is a typical one for that time in Davis' trajectory—post-bop, swing, blues and ballads. Given that Davis had undergone a throat procedure just two months prior to this late-November date, he is in remarkably good form. Local musicians Rene Urtreger on piano, bassist Pierre Michelot and tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen are well up to the task. Wilen, who despite his youthful twenty years had already recorded an album as leader at the start of the year, had impressed Davis on the American's visit to Paris the year before, and little wonder. Listening to Wilen's solos on "Tune Up" and "I'll Remember April," to pick just two gems, we hear a saxophonist confident enough not to be imitative.

Davis sits out three songs—the hard-working Wilen plays overtime on "Now's the Time"—but otherwise leads from the front, switching between mute and open bell on one extended solo after another. Fired up on "No Moe" and "Bags' Groove," Davis is hauntingly tender on "Round Midnight" and "What's New?" This latter sounds like a ghostly forerunner of "Blue in Green" from Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959), a tune generally credited to Bill Evans. Regardless of tempo, the trumpeter's playing is unfailingly emotive.

Michelot and Urtreger enjoy their moments in the spotlight but impress most for locking in rhythmically with the dynamic Clarke. The great drummer, a Paris resident, is in wonderfully feisty mode, his trademark ride cymbal and bass-drum bombs driving the music and injecting an edge into otherwise fairly safe material. Notable too, however, is his subtly persuasive brushwork.

Four days later this same line-up would go into the studio to record the music for Louis Malle's film Ascenseur pour l'eschafaud (Fontana, 1958). Almost entirely improvised, Davis' atmospheric noir soundtrack asks more of the musicians, and is the more remarkable recording for that. Still, the evident passion of this live performance from the Olympia, created in no small part by an engaged Parisian audience, makes In Concert at the Olympia, Paris 1957 a welcome extract from the Davis mine that keeps on giving.

Track Listing

Solar; Four; What's New; No Moe; Lady Bird; Tune Up; I'll Remember April; Bags' Groove; 'Round Midnight; Now's The Time; Walkin'; The Theme.

Personnel

Miles Davis
trumpet
Pierre Michelot
bass, acoustic
Barney Wilen
saxophone, tenor

Album information

Title: In Concert At The Olympia, Paris 1957 | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Fresh Sound Records


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