Miles Davis Quintet: In Concert At The Olympia Paris 1957

After recording Miles Ahead, the trumpeter played in Paris, where he asked Barney Wilen why he didn't 'stop playing those awful notes'


Miles Davis was invited to appear in Paris as a single soon after completing his seminal Miles Ahead album with Gil Evans. He was booked for a concert at the Olympia Theatre followed by three weeks at the Club Saint-Germain. French musicians Rene Urtreger, Pierre Michelot and Barney Wilen were selected to accompany him along with Kenny Clarke.

Mike Zwerin’s Close Enough For Jazz quotes Miles as saying on the first night at the club “Barney, why don’t you stop playing those awful notes?” Wilen was a precociously talented 20-year old tenor player who had already recorded with John Lewis. With his Hank Mobley-like approach he has Lady Bird, I’ll Remember April and Now’s The Time all to himself so the leader’s question will have to remain a mystery.

Miles famously premiered Solar in 1954 with a cup mute along with Dave Schildkraut and Kenny Clarke. Using a harmon here – which, of course, became one of his signature sounds – he creates a totally fresh look at Chuck Wayne’s original. Sonny Rollins’s No Moe, which the composer had introduced with the MJQ in 1953, is notable for Miles’s chorus of two-bar exchanges with Clarke.

’Round Midnight represented something of a come-back for Miles when he performed it at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival. Here, without a mute, his open sound adds to the drama and melancholy of the piece.

Despite his sour words at the Club Saint-Germain, Davis included Wilen when the quintet recorded the music a few weeks later for Louis Malle’s Lift To The Scaffold film starring Jeanne Moreau (variously reissued, e.g., on Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55433CD and 20th Century Masterworks).

(1) Solar; Four; (2) What’s New; (1) No Moe; (3) Lady Bird; (1) Tune Up; (3) I’ll Remember April; (1) Bag’s Groove; ’Round Midnight; (3) Now’s The Time; (1) Walkin’; The Theme (72.35)
(1) Davis (t); Barney Wilen (ts); Rene Urtreger (p); Pierre Michelot (b); Kenny Clarke (d). Olympia Theatre, Paris, 30 November 1957. (2) as (1) omit Wilen. (3) as (1) omit Davis.
Fresh Sound Records FSR-CD1135