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Barney Wilen

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Barney Wilen
Birth nameBarney Jean Wilen
Born(1937-03-04)4 March 1937
Nice, France
Died25 May 1996(1996-05-25) (aged 59)
Paris, France
  • Musician
  • composer
LabelsFontana, MPS, Sunnyside, Vogue

Bernard "Barney" Jean Wilen (4 March 1937[1] – 25 May 1996)[2] was a French tenor and soprano saxophonist and jazz composer.


Wilen was born in Nice, France; his father was an American dentist turned inventor, and his mother was French.[1] He began performing in clubs in Nice after being encouraged by Blaise Cendrars who was a friend of his mother. His career was boosted in 1957, when he worked with Miles Davis on the soundtrack for the Louis Malle film Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows). In 1959, Wilen wrote his soundtrack Un Témoin Dans la Ville and studio album Jazz sur scène with Kenny Clarke. He wrote a soundtrack for Roger Vadim's film Les Liaisons Dangereuses two years later, working with Thelonious Monk.[3] Wilen returned to composing for French films in the 1980s and 1990s. In the mid-to-late 1960s, he became interested in rock,[1] and recorded an album dedicated to Timothy Leary. Wilen toured in Japan for the first time in 1990.[4] He also worked with punk rockers before returning to jazz in the 1990s. Wilen played with modern jazz musicians until his death in 1996. He died of cancer in Paris at the age of 59.[2]

In 1987, French comic book artist Jacques de Loustal and author Philippe Paringaux paid homage to Wilen in their "bande dessinée" Barney et la note bleue ("Barney and the blue note").


As leader[edit]

  • Tilt (Swing, 1957)
  • Barney Wilen Quintet (Guild du Jazz, 1957)
  • Un Temoin Dans La Ville (Fontana, 1959)
  • Barney (RCA, 1960)
  • Zodiac (Vogue, 1966)
  • Auto Jazz: Tragic Destiny of Lorenzo Bandini (MPS, 1968) - with drummer Eddy Gaumont.
  • Moshi (Saravah, 1972)
  • French Ballads (IDA, 1987)
  • La Note Bleue (IDA, 1987)
  • Wild Dogs of the Ruwenzori (IDA, 1989)
  • Movie Themes from France with Mal Waldron (Timeless, 1990)
  • French Story with Mal Waldron (Alfa, 1990)
  • Paris Moods (Alfa, 1990)
  • Sanctuary (IDA, 1991)
  • Newport '59 (Fresh Sound, 1991)
  • Modern Nostalgie: Starbust Forever (Alfa, 1992)
  • Le Grand Cirque (Wan+Wan, 1992)
  • Dream Time with Alain Jean-Marie (Deux Z, 1992)
  • Inside Nitty=Gritty (Venus, 1993)
  • Essential Ballads (Alfa, 1993)
  • New York Romance (Venus, 1994)
  • Passione (Venus, 1995)
  • Talisman (IDA, 1994)
  • More from Barney at the Club Saint-Germain (RCA Victor, 1997)
  • Besame Mucho (Venus, 1997)
  • Double Action with Jimmy Gourley (Elabeth, 1999)
  • The Osaka Concert (Trema/RTE, 1999)
  • Eje Thelin 1996 with Barney Willen (Dragon, 2003)
  • Flash Back with Philippe Petit (Paris Jazz Corner, 2003)
  • Le Jardin Aux Sentiers Qui Bifurquent (CELP, 2004)
  • Live in Paris 8 Janvier 1983 (Marge, 2007)
  • Jazz in Camera with Donald Byrd (Sonorama, 2012)
  • Four Brothers with Lucky Thompson (Sonorama, 2015)
  • Live in Tokyo '91 (Elemental Music, 2019)

As sideman[edit]

With Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

With Bud Powell

  • Cookin' at Saint-Germain 57-59 (Mythic Sound, 1989)
  • Groovin' at the Blue Note 59-61 (Mythic Sound, 1989)
  • Paris Sessions (Pablo, 2002)
  • Parisian Thoroughfares (Pablo, 2003)
  • Shaw Nuff (EPM/Xanadu, 1979)

With others


  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 429. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b "French Jazz Star Barney Wilen Dies". Spokesman.com. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Obituary:Barney Wilen". The Independent. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  4. ^ Harrell, Bryan (27 March 1990) "Tenor Sax Great Makes Japan Debut". The Japan Times. p. 16

External links[edit]