Barney Wilen, Zodiac (1966)

Track Selection: Gemeaux, and Taurea (Gemini and Taurus)


Barney Wilen (ts) Carl Heinz Berger (vib,p) Jean-Francois Jenny Clarke (b) Jaques Thallot (d) recorded at Studios Vogue, 54 Rue d’Hauteville, Paris, 1966


Barney Wilen, not long graduated from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis European tours, an excursion into free jazz, dedicated in best Sixties hippy-style to the mystical signs of the zodiac. A little self-consciously avant garde for 1966, Wilen was a brilliant tenor player who flirted with many music fashions in his thirty-odd year career. The music here is of the plink-plonk-crash avant garde school, and the excellent recording and pressing captures the timbre and resonance of the instruments, with tonal colouring and dissonance that quickly has me reaching for my beret and dark glasses. Nous parlons jazz ici , “Yeah”.

France had a still-flourishing jazz scene in the Sixties. Paris was bursting with expatriate American musicians at a time when burgeoning  sales of rock and pop to the teenage market stole all  record companies attention. Modern Jazz became increasingly sidelined, and the Free school probably helped finish it off as a mainstream market, as those jazz musicians still living, and in search of a living, hitched on to the Jazz Funk and Soul bandwagon, the advancing electronic Jazz Fusion express, or returned to careers as lawyers or to mind the family business.

Vinyl: Disques Vogue CLVX 91-30

French original pressing on Disques Vogue, a Decca-related company. French Vogue are typically heavy vinyl, with sparkling dynamic range perfect for acoustic jazz instruments. Something of a rarity apparently. Boasts Vogue Records Mono <-> Stereo Scope process, whatever that is.

Cover Fashion Footnote: effortless Sixties style, first time around. Young Barney’s sporting a white rollneck, under a v-neck jumper, under a collar-less jacket, topped off with heavy frame glasses. Fashion time you could set your watch by. I recall proudly wearing white rollneck at the time, from that cutting edge mens fashion store of its day: C&A.


Collectors Corner

 Phew! Cash in the Attic!

Courtesy of my personal time machine, purchased by a younger LJC in his first year at college in 1967, from a retail record store for around £2, a princely sum actually equal to half a weeks rent. One of the few records that I can trace a direct lineage. Everyone in my college group was listening to the Sounds of the Zodiac (heavy on the sitar) by candlelight, smoking home-made cigarettes. I threw this record in the pot. For some reason it didn’t get traded or sold, or thrown away like the others, and remained untouched and unplayed in a box in the attic for forty years.

It is not music from my youth – I recall not liking it very much at the time. Sometimes it takes a  l o n g  time to get it. Decades. Four of them.

9 thoughts on “Barney Wilen, Zodiac (1966)

    • Seems Karl Heinz comes in 57 varieties

      Real Name: Karl Hans Berger
      Profile: German pianist, vibraphonist, conductor and composer.
      b. March 19, 1935 (Heidelberg, Germany)

      Founding member of avant-garde collective Hans, Nees and Bump C. Daisy ( I made that up)

      | Karl Berger | All:

      Carl Heinz Berger , Beger, Berger, Carl Berger, Carlhans Berger, K. Berger, K. Burger, Karl H. Berger, Karl H. Berger, Karl Hans Berger, Karlhanns Berger, Karlhans Berger

      Seems to be some confusion through his career as to how to spell his name. I’m surprised there is no “Ham Burger”, or Burger, King.

      • Thanks for the info. Incredible, I never knew there were that many variations! In the sixties, he was generally known as Karlhanns Berger, which is probably his “real” name (cf. Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia and a couple of other biographical dictionaries).

    • Funny, how doing “the right thing”, at the “wrong time”, works out. It was a blind pick, I disliked it, took four decades to come around. Remember that next time you say you like or don’t like something. At this moment in time… but later, who knows? Personal preferences are forever changing.

    • I’m a late starter, you are probably ahead of me already. I followed the signposts for Fusion in 1970 but took a wrong turn somewhere around 1980, ended up in Californian New Age. Doctors said I might never think again. For twenty years I travelled the music world in search of a cure, India, Africa, South America, even dabbled with “Post Modernism”. Just when hope was almost gone, in 2006, I wandered into a small record store in Soho and something led me to pick up a copy of Anthony Williams Lifetime Blue Note 4180 , mono first pressing. It was £50, more than I had ever spent on a record before. I still don’t know what made me buy it, but when I put it on the turntable I was completely overwhelmed. I had never heard sound like this before. The rest, as they say, is history. I still don’t know what made me buy the Wilen in 1967. If there is a greater Force up there, I think he loves jazz.

      • In 1992 I picked up Blue Train on CD and was instantly hooked. All because of my favourite Dutch writer, writing so enthusiastically about jazz and digging for vinyl that I just had to try it. And indeed: the rest is history 😉

        • I like to think Modern Jazz is music for “grown ups”. Some of us grow up, musically, sooner than others. I am not sure it matters when you arrive, only that at some point, you do arrive. I think I just caught the train in time. Perhaps it was a Blue Train.

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