Sandro Bocola: about the soundtrack Jazz in Camera:
Paris in the late fifties had become the Mecca of modern jazz. Among other international stars such as Lester Young, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Oscar Pettiford, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers played in jazz clubs such as the Chat qui pèche, the Club Saint Germain and the Blue Note. Miles Davis recorded the soundtracks for several films in Paris with musicians like Barney Wilen, and Duke Ellington performed in the city with his “Famous Orchestra”.
Shortly after the start of a multi-year sojourn in Paris, I designed the project of an avantgarde jazz film in 1958 together with my friend Dennis Bailey, as a modern version of the legendary short film Jamming the Blues with Lester Young, with a group of musicians in a recording studio who produced a record. We had planned to first record the soundtrack. Then the musicians should be filmed in a studio with multiple cameras, as they repeat their original sound recording in a kind of playback. The resulting footage was then alienated in colour, as rhythmic montage cut to the original soundtrack.
After I had found a sponsor in one of my clients, who would finance the project, I put a little band together with the help of my friend Barney Wilen, which ultimately included the musicians Donald Byrd (tp), Walter Davis (p) Jimmy Gourley (g ), Al Levitt (dr), Doug Watkins (b) and Barney Wilen (ts). Boris Vian, who held a senior position at the record company Phillips, provided the recording studio where we met the musicians in July 1958 for the recording of the soundtrack. It should start with a quick piece, followed by a slow blues, and eventually followed by another quick piece, A Night in Tunisia.
After several test runs, during which we made a series of preparatory photographs, the soundtrack of the planned film was recorded. Now we could start with the first shooting for which we had won the famous cameraman Raoul Coutard. Unfortunately, the unexpected bankruptcy of the sponsor François Peyron finished our project. The laboratory, whose bills we could not afford to pay, refused to deliver us the previously developed film material and the musicians turned back to their own affairs. The only thing we had were the shellac records of the soundtrack, of which Dennis and I kept one copy to listen to them from time to time for our pleasure.
As Patrick Wilen worked up the musical legacy of his late father this year, he came across the soundtrack of the aborted project Jazz in camera at my place, which he, after more than fifty years, now makes accessible to the public for the first time on this CD and LP in collaboration with the Berlin based label Sonorama Records.
Sandro Bocola (Zurich, October 2011)