A French jazz discovery

If I started a sentence with “The great French jazz saxophonist…” how would you finish it? Yeah, me neither. Until this year, when I discovered the great French jazz saxophonist Barney Wilen. This happened more or less randomly – I picked up a recent box set of the French label Vogue on a whim because it was cheap and had lots of CDs in it. One of them was Wilen’s 1957 debut as a leader, Tilt, which is out of print and not easily available elsewhere. And what a debut – a huge tone, brawny confidence, great melodicism. He’s as good as, and somewhat reminiscent of, Sonny Rollins from the same period – for instance, they both handle Monk tunes superbly. Since that initial discovery I’ve slowly digging out other items in his discography. Probably his most famous other appearance is Miles Davis’ soundtrack, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, though that’s really a showcase for Davis. But Tilt itself easily qualifies for true lost classic status.


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