In Concert at the Olympia, Paris 1957 (CD Digipack)
  • Barney Wilen
    Barney Wilen
  • René Urtreger
    René Urtreger
  • Pierre Michelot
    Pierre Michelot
  • Kenny Clarke
    Kenny Clarke
  • Miles Davis
    Miles Davis

Miles Davis

In Concert at the Olympia, Paris 1957 (CD Digipack)

Fresh Sound Records

Miles Davis (tp), Barney Wilen (ts), René Urtreger (p), Pierre Michelot (b), Kenny Clarke (d)

Reference: FSRCD1135

Bar code: 8427328611350

The recording of this historic concert is presented in its entirety for the first time in this edition. The remastered original tapes have been used to produce this CD, ensuring excellent sound quality.

With little publicity and only one star arrived from America, Miles Davis, Bruno Coquatrix, owner and manager of the Olympia, accomplished an impressive feat by presenting a sold-out concert on Saturday, November 30, 1957, at 6 p.m. André Hodeir in Jazz Hot had written, "This concert by Miles Davis was one of the most beautiful jazz concerts we have ever heard in Paris. Brilliantly supported by Kenny Clarke, René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot, and Barney Wilen, the great trumpeter gave the best of himself in many passages."

The producer and owner of this recording was the late jazz promoter Marcel Romano, who brought Miles Davis to Paris. After more than 60 years in storage, Romano’s nephew and heir discovered the tapes and sold them to Fresh Sound Records for a commercial release.

The music on this album is a magnificent testament to Miles Davis’ engaging and captivating style, showcasing his unrivaled ability to push his peers beyond their limits and share his boundless creativity and inspiration with them, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts and minds.

—Jordi Pujol

01. Solar (Miles Davis) 7:24
02. Four (Miles Davis) 6:27
03. What's New? (Haggart-Burke) 3:26
04. No Moe (Sonny Rollins) 8:11
05. Lady Bird (Tadd Dameron) 7:25
06. Tune Up (Miles Davis) 4:44
07. I’ll Remember April (De Paul-Raye-Johnson) 6:29
08. Bag's Groove (Milt Jackson) 7:29
09. 'Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk) 5:11
10. Now's The Time (Charlie Parker) 6:28
11. Walkin' (Richard Carpenter) 7:18
12. The Theme (Miles Davis) 2:21

Album details

Miles Davis, trumpet (out on #5, 7, 10); Barney Wilen, tenor sax; René Urtreger, piano; Pierre Michelot, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums.
Recorded live at the Olympia, Paris, November 30, 1957

Restored & mastered by Marc Doutrepont
Photos by Jean-Pierre Leloir (digipack front, back and page 2)
Other photos: X
Liner notes by Jordi Pujol

Original recordings produced by Marcel Romano
Source of the original tapes: Laurent Guenoun
Produced for release by Jordi Pujol
© 2023 by Fresh Sound Records

Hi Fi · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered
Blue Moon Producciones Discograficas, S.L.

Note: Before Miles Davis arrived in Paris, the aspiring filmmaker Louis Malle was aware that Miles’s quintet would be performing at the Saint-Germain club for a week following the Olympia concert. Recognizing this as an opportunity, Malle approached Marcel Romano with a equest: he expressed his desire for the Miles Davis quintet to provide the music for his debut film, “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows).”

When Miles arrived in Paris, Romano and Malle rushed to pitch the idea to him and organized a private screening of the film. After watching it, Miles eagerly embraced the challenge and set to work on it with enthusiasm, despite the limited time he had to prepare the music.

On November 4, the Miles Davis quintet reunited at Le Poste Parisien Studio for a late evening recording session under the supervision of Marcel Romano. The session commenced at 9 p.m. and lasted for four intense hours. As the film played before their eyes, the musicians delved into spontaneous improvisation, creating a remarkable musical masterpiece. The seamless fusion of image, action, and sound in the film left an enduring imprint on the realms of both cinema and jazz.

Despite this unpredicted achievement, the tour proved to be a financial failure as the expected number of signed concerts did not materialize as Romano had anticipated. As a result, Miles Davis found himself spending a majority of his time jamming at club Saint-Germain and enjoying the lively atmosphere of Paris.

The quintet’s limited number of scheduled appearances outside of France proved to be successful, with two notable concerts receiving high praise and acclaim. The first concert took place on December 8 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, while the second occurred on December 20 at the Théâtre Patria in Brussels. Prior to the Brussels concert, Miles traveled alone to Stuttgart on December 18 where he showcased his skills as the main soloist with the Erwin Lehn Orchestra at the Liederhalle Beethovensaal. After the conclusion of the Brussels performance, Miles returned to his base of operations in New York.

Press reviews

"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."

—Ian Pattson (January 7, 2024)

"On November 30, 1957, four days before trumpeter Miles Davis began recording the soundtrack to the French movie Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud, he performed at L'Olympia theater in Paris. He was backed by the Rene Urtreger Quartet, featuring Barney Wilen (ts), Rene Urtreger (p), Pierre Michelot (b) and Kenny Clarke (d) —the same musicians who would accompany him on the soundtrack.

Now, for the first time, we have the entire performance in sterling 24-bit remastered audio, thanks to Jordi Pujol and his Fresh Sound label. While parts of the concert were previously released on gritty bootlegs and a private recording by Urtreger, this release marks the first high-quality commercial issuing of the music.

The quintet is remarkable for its exceptional individual players. Wilen was a superb modern tenor saxophonist, Michelot was a solid bassist and Clarke was a superstar expatriate and a founding father of bebop. Most interesting, the quartet behind Davis didn't try to emulate the sound of his working group with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, though Wilen and Coltrane did share a similar dry tone.

In addition, Davis sounds at ease and playing as beautifully as he would on the movie soundtrack days later. In part, I would attribute this to Paris and his long-running love affair with the city and French audiences' love affair with him.

But Davis' passion for Paris ran a little deeper. Nearly all of his trips there included an affair. In 1949, he was with actress-singer Juliette Gréco. In 1956, he formed a romantic attachment with Urtreger's sister, Jeanne De Mirbeck. And a year later, around the time of this recording, he had begun an affair with Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud's leading actress, Jeanne Moreau.

During this trip, he also continued his affair with Urtreger's sister. “He was obsessed by sex, not by women,” she has said. “But when he was with me, he was with me.” During the tour, Davis wore her scarves on stage as keepsakes. Paris will do that to you.

The songs performed on the album are Solar, Four, What's New?, No Moe, Lady Bird, Tune Up, I'll Remember April, Bags' Groove, Round Midnight, Now's the Time, Walkin' and The Theme.

Another spectacular historical release of previously unisssued material that's first rate on every level. Kudos to Jordi and Fresh Sound."

—Marc Myers (September 19, 2023)

"1957 was a very significant year for Miles Davis: he had recorded ‘Miles Ahead’ with Gil Evans in May; in December the ground breaking soundtrack recording for the film ‘Lift To The Scaffold’ was recorded. Just four days before that recording Miles played this concert at the Olympia in Paris. The musicians that he played with were the same that he used for the soundtrack recording.

Contracted to appear at the club Saint-Germain, Miles had left his usual group behind in New York. By 1957 he was famous enough to draw crowds on his own. He had been to Paris before and the group that he assembled included Barney Wilen, at just twenty, new to the scene. Pierre Michelot had played with Bechet and Clifford Brown. René Urtreger played at the club and had accompanied Lester Young. Kenny Clarke on drums had redefined jazz drumming in the nineteen forties and had made Paris his home. In addition to working at the club, the group played concerts in Brussels, Amsterdam and Stuttgart.

Journalist and trombone player Mike Zwerin went to the concert. He knew Miles having worked with him briefly on the nonet recordings in 1949. He wrote: ‘Miles was the big man...The Olympia Theatre was sold out that night…. Finally the curtain went up... They started playing Walkin and sounded fine... Barney took a tenor solo, and as he was finishing, backing away from the microphone, Miles appeared from the wings and arrived at the mike without breaking his stride, just in time to start to playing – strong. It was an entrance worthy of Nijinsky. If his choreography was good, his playing was perfect that night.’

Three years earlier Miles had defeated his heroin addiction and now was in good health. His trumpet playing was hitting a peak. Like a lyric poet Miles’ playing had lucidity, fluency, a cool logic and passion. The cogency and the architectural quality of his solos was impressive. There was a questing, coherent, narrative shape to his playing that would culminate two years later in the Kind of Blue sessions.

Miles was a dramatist. He compels attention to his playing on ‘What’s New’. The majesty and purity of the tone was a summons: an aspect that he would develop in the next few years. Here is an early example. The pretty tune is made beautiful, given depth. He not only varies the main line of the piece but his tone moves from almost a whisper to searing, searching high notes, always playing within himself.

Confident and assertive, Miles approaches ‘Round Midnight’ not afraid to define the blue notes. His hand over phrase to Wilen is appropriate. Wilen has a tone that is close to Hank Mobley: there is warmth and an exploratory feel to his music.

Miles’ solo is magnificent on ‘Bag’s Groove’. Urtreger’s playing takes his cue from Miles. When Miles returns, he plays call and response with himself for moments as he explores the tonal quality of the horn before reaching for the high notes. It is only ten years since Miles, ineffectual and lacking in confidence, played with Parker.

‘Walkin’’ he played many times before; the rhythm is easy going. Miles picks the notes carefully exuding relaxation not afraid to go for the higher notes or to repeat ideas. The tone is clear, silvery brass. The contours of the tune fit well. He hands over to Wilen who is backed beautiful by Michelot and Clarke. Miles returns before the end exploring long notes with Clarke punctuating Miles’ musings.

Miles would go a long way in the next thirty years. His influence on jazz would grow but it is doubtful if his trumpet playing would improve greatly over this bravura, luminous playing in Paris.

Some of this material has been available on bootlegs. The recording of the concert is presented in its entirety for the first time. The remastered original tapes have been used to produce this album ensuring excellent sound quality."

—Jack Kenny (September 21, 2023)

"No complete recording of the Olympia concert was known to exist until, after Romano’s death, his nephew and heir found a set of reel-to-reel tapes among his possessions. He sold them to Jordi Pujol, the Barcelona-based specialist in historical reissues, who commissioned the audio engineer Marc Doutrepont to restore and master them. Doutrepont has achieved a sound as good as the best live recordings of the time: true, clear, warm and perfectly balanced.

Davis and Clarke were old friends and colleagues, and the trumpeter had played with Urtreger and Michelot during his second trip to Europe with the Birdland All Stars, 12 months earlier. Wilen was new to him, but the whole band sounds at ease from the start of their first appearance as a unit. They play a dozen pieces: “Solar”, “Four”, “What’s New”, “No Moe”, “Lady Bird”, “Tune Up”, “I’ll Remember April”, “Bags’ Groove”, “‘Round Midnight”, “Now’s the Time”, “Walkin'” and “The Theme”.

Miles’s tone and attack were at their most exquisite at this time, between the sessions for Miles Ahead and Milestones, the alertness of his mind ensuring that the poignancy of his sound never became self-indulgent. His solo on “Four” is the sort of thing, like his improvisations on the studio versions of “Milestones” and “So What”, that could be transcribed and studied for the details of its nuanced perfection. He takes “What’s New” as a solo ballad feature, producing elegant variations that can be listened to over and over again.

Wilen, precociously poised and inventive, gets Tadd Dameron’s “Lady Bird”, “I’ll Remember April” and a bouncy “Now’s the Time” to himself with the rhythm section. They are respectively the fifth, seventh and tenth tracks on the album, making me wonder if this is the same order as the actual set list. Would Miles have left the stage and returned so often? Given that he had only stepped off a transatlantic flight a few hours earlier, perhaps so.

Other joys include the trumpeter’s intense blues playing on “Bags’ Groove” and his relaxed exchanges with the immaculate Clarke on Sonny Rollins’s “No Moe”. A couple of fluffed phrases at the start of “Walkin'” are rare blemishes on a a release whose artistic value is the equal of its historical interest. If you love Miles, don’t miss this."

—Richard Williams (September 28, 2023)
Ringer of the Week ★★★★

"Most jazz fans know that during his early peak years, Miles Davis went to Paris to record a soundtrack for the French film noir 'Acenseur Pour L’echafaud' with the local team of Pierre Michelot/b, Rene Urtreger/p, Barney Wilen/ts and ex-pat Kenny Clarke/dr. But, did you know that Miles and company also did a concert before going into the studio? Interested yet?

Recorded in surprisingly good sound in November 30, 1957 at the Olympia in Paris, this twelve song concert is a wonderful missing link to Miles Davis career. He's in wonderful sound on the horn, and tenor saxist Wilen, who sounds like a mix between Hank Mobley and Sonny Rollins, is up to the task of being Davis’ foil. The tunes are Davis' comfort food at the time, with the team dreamily hip on “Solar” as Clarke assuages the brushes, and bouncing with clarity on ”Four”. Most interesting is rare read of Sonny Rollins' “No Moe” which has Wilen blowing smoke rings, and a take of “Bag's Groove” that has Clarke digging in under Davis like he's creating a gullet of groove. Miles is in a soulful mood on ”Walkin'” and delivers an aria for “'Round Midnight” and “What's New” that would make Pavarotti envious. Davis reaches back in the past for a sublime “Lady Bird” and a bouncy bluesfest for “Now's The Time”. If this is not the find of the year, I don't know what you're waiting for Miles' Rosetta Stone has been discovered."

George W. Harris (October 2, 2023)

"1957 est une année marquante dans le parcours de Miles Davis. La lecture de Jazz Hot permet de se rendre compte de la place prise alors par le trompettiste qui fait sa première couverture de notre revue avec le n°117 de janvier 1957, distingué par les «Prix Jazz Hot» de la meilleure formation et le prix du meilleur trompettiste pour les lecteurs comme pour la rédaction. Il sera d’ailleurs de nouveau en couverture du numéro de novembre (n°126), vraisemblablement dans la perspective de son concert parisien du 30 qui est l’objet de cette nouvelle production Fresh Sound. Cette année 1957 très riche comporte aussi son lot de difficultés: en mars, après avoir renvoyé de son quintet John Coltrane et Philly Joe Jones en raison de leur addiction à la drogue, Miles dissout sa formation; en mai, il enregistre, sous la direction de Gil Evans, Miles Ahead (Columbia), dont le succès marque le premier épisode de leur collaboration et assoit le statut de vedette du leader. Début septembre, il subit une opération à la gorge qui l’immobilise jusqu’à la fin du mois et forme alors un nouveau quintet. C’est à ce moment que l’activiste du jazz, organisateur de concert et contributeur de Jazz Hot, Marcel Romano, débarque à New York pour planifier avec différents musiciens des tournées européennes à venir, comme le raconte Jordi Pujol dans le livret. Après avoir monté un mémorable «Birdland Show», passé par la Salle Pleyel en novembre 1956 –comprenant Miles, Lester Young, Bud Powell et le Modern Jazz Quartet (cf. Jazz Hot n°116, décembre 1956)–, le producteur a notamment en tête de faire revenir le trompettiste en Europe et il en annonce son intention dès Jazz Hot n°117 car le programme très chargé de la tournée Birdland a laissé «de nombreux amateurs sur leur faim». C'est ainsi que Miles atterrit à Orly le 29 novembre, accueilli par Marcel Romano qui a monté une tournée européenne de trois semaines. Le livret signale que le concert du lendemain qui devait se tenir initialement à l’Alhambra a été déplacé quelques jours avant à l’Olympia et se joue à guichets fermés, performance dont on pensait alors seuls capables les orchestres swing de Louis Armstrong ou Lionel Hampton (cf. Jazz Hot n°128). Là encore, la relecture des Jazz Hot de l’époque donne une idée de la formidable vitalité jazz de la capitale, puisque le mois précédent, l’Alhambra accueillait Harry James (avec Buddy Rich) et l’Olympia Jack Teagarden (avec Earl Hines et Cozy Cole) ainsi que le Count Basie Orchestra (cf. Jazz Hot n°127); et la même semaine que Miles, Erroll Garner (salué à la descente de l'avion par Boris Vian, cf. Jazz Hot n°128) est également au programme de l'Olympia. Pour accompagner Miles, Marcel Romano sollicite de nouveau le trio de René Urtreger qui l’avait entouré l’année précédente à Pleyel. Mais si Pierre Michelot tient toujours la contrebasse, Christian Garros est remplacé par Kenny Clarke qui a notamment enregistré Bag’s Groove (1954, Prestige) avec le trompettiste, tandis qu’un deuxième soufflant est ajouté avec le tout jeune Barney Wilen, pour une version parisienne du quintet de Miles. Dès son arrivée, celui-ci rencontre ses partenaires en scène pour une répétition.

L’enregistrement du concert, toujours à l’initiative de Marcel Romano, n’a jamais été publié «officiellement» mais il a en partie circulé (on en trouve des extraits sur YouTube). Sa restitution intégrale proposée aujourd’hui par Fresh Sound a donc valeur d’inédit, ce qui, concernant un musicien de la dimension de Miles, dont on pense tout connaître, est une divine surprise. Précisons que sur trois titres le leader se met en retrait, laissant l'orchestre jouer sans lui et que sur «'Round Midnight» la bande originale était endommagée et que sur près de 4 minutes, une autre source de moindre qualité a été utilisée pour combler le manque. Ce travail de restauration minutieux nous permet ainsi de profiter d’un Miles au sommet de son art sur cette période encore bop, soutenu par des partenaires de premier ordre. Jordi Pujol rapporte d’ailleurs le compte rendu enthousiaste que Jazz Hot avait publié (n°128): «Ce concert de Miles Davis fut l’un des plus beaux concerts de jazz qu’il nous ait été donné d’entendre à Paris. Brillamment soutenu par Kenny Clarke, René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot et Barney Willen, le grand trompettiste a donné en maints passages le meilleur de lui-même». On peut qu’inciter les lecteurs actuels de Jazz Hot à se précipiter sur ce trésor: une heure et quart de beauté jazzique, avec un Miles Davis à la sensibilité crépusculaire (magnifique «What’s New?»), un Barney Willen débordant de swing («I’ll Remember April»), le beau toucher bop de René Urtreger («Solar»), la sonorité boisée de Pierre Michelot (superbe solo sur «Lady Bird») et le groove de Kenny Clarke (formidable introduction de «Now's The Time»). Un morceau d’histoire restitué dans son intégrité qui a précédé, avec la même formation, un autre livele 8 décembre à Amsterdam, celui-ci déjà connu depuis les années 1980, mais aussi la célèbre session «improvisée» dans la nuit du 4 au 5 décembre pour la musique du film de Louis Malle, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. Ajoutons que récemment l’INA a mis à disposition des images filmées du quintet, tournées le 7 décembre par Jean-Christophe Averty, qui seraient les plus anciennes de Miles jamais réalisées.

Pour son intérêt historique comme la qualité exceptionnelle de la musique jouée, ce Miles Davis in Concert at The Olympia Paris 1957 est évidemment indispensable!"

—Jérôme Partage (Novembre, 2023)
© Jazz Hot 2023


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