If you are American and you know the name Barney Wilen, it is probably from two recordings of film music. When he was 20, in 1957, Wilen played on Miles Davis’ groundbreaking improvised soundtrack to Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour L’échafaud. At 22, he played with Thelonious Monk on the soundtrack for another French film, Roger Vadim’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
An unknown kid tenor saxophone player from France was an unlikely choice for both sessions, but Wilen had something. Then and now, what he had is called cool. He sounded like a West Coast tenor, but the coast was in France and the accent was Parisian. You may have wondered whatever became of him.