Widely considered the premier European jazz bassist of his generation, Pierre Michelot collaborated with a veritable who's who of postwar giants, including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Born in St-Denis, France, on March 3, 1928, Michelot studied piano as a child but moved to classical bass at age 16 — in the years following World War II, he regularly performed for American troops stationed in France, and word of his natural, clear tone and impeccable rhythmic sense traveled fast through the ranks of American jazz musicians. By the late '40s his recording credits included Paris studio sessions in support of Coleman Hawkins, Sidney Bechet, and Rex Stewart. Collaborations with bop titans including Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Zoot Sims followed, and in 1953 Michelot played on the final date ever recorded by the pioneering guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Throughout the 1950s he was also a fixture at Parisian clubs, enjoying long residencies at the Club St. Germain, the Ringside, and the Blue Note and often playing alongside the American drummer Kenny Clarke. In late 1957 Miles Davis handpicked Michelot to work on his improvised soundtrack to director Louis Malle's feature debut, Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud, and two years later he teamed with pianist Jacques Loussier for Play Bach, a surprise commercial hit that yielded a pair of sequels as well as a tour with drummer Christian Garros that extended off and on for some 15 years. With pianist René Urtreger and drummer Daniel Humair, Michelot in 1960 formed the long-lived trio HUM; three years later, he was awarded the Academie du Jazz's Prix Django Reinhardt in honor of his contributions to French jazz.
Michelot maintained a relentless studio and touring schedule for the next quarter century, in 1986 appearing alongside star Dexter Gordon in the film Round Midnight, director Bertrand Tavernier's affectionate portrait of the Paris jazz culture of the 1950s; he later toured with Gordon as well. After a 1990 stay at New York's Village Vanguard in tandem with guitarist Christian Escoudé, Michelot curtailed his schedule somewhat, although he continued working with HUM at decade's end. After battling Alzheimer's disease, he died in Paris on July 3, 2005.
- By Jason Ankeny
All Music Group