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Un Témoin Dans La Ville

Barney Wilen

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Album Review

Having already played on a film soundtrack with Miles Davis on Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, Barney Wilen — still barely in his 20s - got the opportunity to compose the score for another French film that used jazz as a background, Un Témoin Dans La Ville. Musically, though, the score is no big deal, a succession of listless cues (some less than a minute in length) that mean little outside of the context of the film. Wilen can be heard on relaxed yet soulful tenor and soprano, Kenny Dorham plays cool-toned trumpet, Duke Jordan is on piano, Paul Rovere (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) round out the rhythm section. Luckily, this doleful soundtrack, originally issued on a ten-inch LP, is coupled with the much longer, more freely jazzy studio album Jazz Sur Seine, which teams Wilen with three-fourths of the original Modern Jazz Quartet (with Milt Jackson on piano only, of all things, Percy Heath on bass, and Clarke), plus the Latin percussion of Gana M'Bow. Wilen gets more of a chance to stretch out and reveal his swinging, warm tenor tone; Jackson is quite competent as a comping accompanist and in fairly fluent, right-handed bop flurries. A mix of Django Reinhardt tunes and Charles Trénet chansons, a few tunes by Wilen, and the concluding Monk "Epistrophy" make up much of the program, which thoroughly dispels the sinking feeling left by the preceding film music. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


Born: 04 March 1937 in Nice, France

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Barney Wilen's mother was French, his father a successful American dentist-turned-inventor. He grew up mostly on the French Riviera; the family left during World War II but returned upon its conclusion. According to Wilen himself, he was convinced to become a musician by his mother's friend, the poet Blaise Cendrars. As a teenager he started a youth jazz club in Nice, where he played often. He moved to Paris in the mid-'50s and worked with such American musicians as Bud Powell, Benny Golson, Miles...
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Un Témoin Dans La Ville, Barney Wilen
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