A strange anomaly in the Miles Davis catalogue is this half-and-half LP released by Columbia in 1959. Jazz Track got its name in part from side A, which constituted much of the soundtrack music he created with a Parisian quintet in December 1957 for Louis Malle’s first feature film, Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (released in the U.S. initially as Frantic, and later as Elevator to the Gallows.) With not enough music to fill more than one side of an LP, Columbia picked three tracks for the B-side from a remarkable Miles session from midsummer 1958—remarkable for featuring the Bill Evans-Cannoball Adderley-John Coltrane lineup proving their mettle on three tracks: “Green Dolphin Street,” “Fran-Dance,” and “Stella by Starlight.” (As Kind of Blue fit into a modal concept, it can be argued these three performances are the best example of what Miles’ famous 1958 sextet was capable of with more standard repertoire in the studio.)
Jazz Track was released just a few months after Kind of Blue and before Sketches of Spain, and was unfairly overshadowed by the immediate popularity of each, and the fact that both were more cohesively thematic. In combining sessions conceived for different purposes and with different lineups, Jazz Track as an album was neither fish nor fowl. As well, that the music from Elevator to the Gallows—now acknowledged as a groundbreaking effort by both jazz and cinema historians—was first released in the US so perfunctorily is due as much to the film’s limited potential in the American market, as it is to the mostly modal music being undervalued. And yet—without the modal tryout that yielded Elevator to the Gallows soundtrack, no Kind of Blue. One opened the door to the other.