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Barney Wilen

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Biography

Barney Wilen (March 4, 1937 – May 25, 1996) was a French tenor and soprano saxophonist and jazz composer.

Wilen was born in Nice; his father was an American dentist turned inventor, and his mother was French. 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 Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud. In 1959, Wilen wrote his two soundtracks Un Témoin Dans la Ville and Jazz sur scène with Kenny Clarke. He wrote a soundtrack for Roger Vadim’s film Les Liaisons Dangeureuse two years later, working with Thelonious Monk. Wilen returned to composing for French films in the 1980s and 1990s. In the mid-to-late 1960s he became interested in rock, and recorded an album dedicated to Timothy Leary. 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 59.
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”).

Discography

As leader
1957 : Tilt - Vogue Swing
1958 : Jazz sur Seine - Philips
1959 : Barney - RCA
1959 : Un témoin dans la ville - Fontana
1962 : Jazz Soundtrack From Mental Cruelty - Decca
1966 : Zodiac Suite - Vogue
1968 : Dear Prof. Leary - MPS Records

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