Barney Wilen La Note Bleue (1987) IDA

Track Selection: Harlem Nocturne (E. Hagen arr. B. Wilen)


Barney Wilen (ts) Ricardo Del Fra (b) Sangoma Everett (d) Alain Jean-Marie (p) Philippe Petit (g)  Recorded  November 30, December 1-3, 1986, digitally mixed by  Hervé Le Guil; Cover design: comic book artist Jacques De Loustal, author of Barney et la Note Bleue.


Wilen remains steadfastly among my favourite tenor players. Lyrical, musical, romantic, swinging, entirely unlike the hard biting aggression of New York, or the huge breathy tone of the tenor founding fathers. He remains a distinctive voice that over decades continues to delight. I can put on “Jazz sur Scene” and I cross The Channel to the Left Bank and fifty years in just the first few notes, and he has never lost that voice, because it is authentically his own..

His first major appearance in the late Fifties, not even out of his teens,  were the European tours of Art Blakey and Miles Davis. This record reprises many songs of that era, with compositions of Monk, Duke Jordan and Bennie Golson mixed with his own. For twenty years Wilen took his saxophone into rock and world music. We find him here back in his roots in long-term collaboration with Alain Jean-Marie, both delicate and swinging in the manner of McCoy Tyner, and Philippe Petit,  shades of Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell. He doesn’t grandstand, but gives space to other members of the ensemble as equals. Liberté – Egalité – Fraternité.

Born to an American father and French mother in Nice, South of France, Cotes d’Azur, , Wilen is commemorated at Cimiez, Queen Victoria’s Winter hideaway and site of the Nice Jazz Festival for many years, which dedicates all its walkways to the greats of jazz. Allee Barney Wilen makes a good French impression in front of the Musee Matisse. A  French 50-minute film(subtitles)  explores Wilen’s  enigmatic life, here.

Photo: LondonJazzCollector

Cover Design: Jacques De Loustal

Loustal design, Paringaux storyline, the French tradition of the “serious” comic book tells the story of Barney Wilen, in style and mood which reflects the music itself. Jazz as a soundtrack to the comic book which illustrates the existential milieu of the musician as hero.  Very stylish. Very French

Vinyl: IDA 010

Nice balanced stereo presentation, beautiful quality dynamic range. Comparing  it with a Sixties end-to-end analog vinyl betrays its digital origins, with its slightly CD-like “Stepford Wives” perfection, but there isn’t any other choice, so it is to be enjoyed for what it is.

Vinyl Weight: 128 gm  – released by the Paris branch of Weightwatchers, obviously

The Matrix:

I think it’s in French. I..D.. A… and then some numbers, zero-dix. Very difficult for us Brits, who don’t speak much foreign.


Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay Location: Germany

Sellers Description:


This seller takes no prisoners. I say it is Mint Minus, if you disagree and think otherwise, I don’t care. No returns!!  Ve won the War. OK we didn’t, but we came a close second. Think about it. Nice European Community. Shame if anything were to happen to it…

Not a good starting point. But wait, he used that word, he says it’s RARE!  The word that causes collectors to start foaming at the mouth: it’s a Pavlovian reflex, named after the Pavlova, a delicious pudding of meringue and red berry fruits.

As it happens, he’s not wrong on the vinyl condition. Manufactured in 1987, by which time the tracking weight of tonearms had fallen from 20 grams to an anorexic 2 grams, making it very difficult to scratch vinyl. Followed by the ascendance of TESD, I am sure put in the loft and not played for the next twenty years ensured its excellent condition.

Much of Wilen’s later work is available only on CD, and they themselves are sadly, rare due to his cult status in France today. Let’s finish with a few more frames of our saxaphone toting hero, Barney:

4 thoughts on “Barney Wilen La Note Bleue (1987) IDA

  1. Great, I have a few of those (Ascenseur Pour l’Echafaud, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Paris Jam Session and Afternoon In Paris) and they are wonderful. I was wondering, what pressing of Paris Jam Session do you have? There is a Dutch black-silver label pressing and a French green label pressing, but I don’t know which one is the ‘original’.

    • Paris Jam Session is the French Fontana Green P & C 1961 Matrix 1A 1B
      Recorded in France 1959, I figure French 1961 is a fair chance of being the original, but who knows.

      UPDATE: no, its a reissue – the label must be a straight copy of the original but the jacket has a barcode – which I believe was introduced in the early eightes.

  2. Thank you for posting this, I hadn’t heard this record before, as I kind of avoided it because that’s my general approach to basically any music that’s been made in the 1980s. Although I find the music and sound on this record way too ‘clean’ for my taste, I must admit that Wilen plays great as always.

    I was wondering if you had the soundtrack from the l’Ascenseur Pour l’Echafaud movie by Miles Davis, as it’s another fantastic recording with Barney Wilen.

    • On vinyl I have
      With Miles Davis: Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (Fontana UK 1st release)
      With Art Blakey: Les Liasons Dangereuse, Paris Jam Session
      With John Lewis: Afternoon In Paris
      Wilen as leader: Zodiac, La Note Bleue, Wild Dogs of the Ruwenzori,

      On CD: : Tilt!, Miles Davis Live in Amsterdamn, un Temoin dans la ville, Passione

      Everything this guy does is great.

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