Born of an American father and a French mother, the young Barney began to perform in clubs encouraged by writer Blaise Cendrars, a friend of his mother.
His career intensified in 1957: Miles Davis, in Paris to create the music for Louis Malle's first feature movie, Ascenseur pour l'echafaud, recruited Wilen as well as pianist René Urtreger, bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Kenny Clarke. With eyes on the screen they improvised and recorded the soundtrack in one night.
Two years later he recorded with Thelonious Monk, then was chosen by Art Blakey to interpret the music of Les liaisons dangereuses, a 1960 film, directed by Roger Vadim. The same year he also appeared in the TV show Jazz Memories, in the episode "Live Club Saint Germain." He also played at the Newport Jazz Festival with pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, bassist Tommy Bryant and drummer Roy Haynes.
In the 1960s Wilen became interested in rock and made a record dedicated to Timothy Leary in 1968. In 1969 he went to Africa with Caroline de Bendern, musicians and a film crew, resulting in the record, Moshi (1972), with a synthesis of jazz and African music. A period of silence followed until the 1980s-1990s, when he composed music for several French films. Wilen also worked with punk rockers, before returning to jazz in the 1990s.
- 143 Instruments & Performance
- 35 Writing & Arrangement
- 1 Featuring & Presenting
- 1 Conducting & Leading
- 6 Production
- 2 Technical
- 1 Visual