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Barney Kessel

One of the finest guitarists to emerge after the death of Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel was a reliable bop soloist throughout his career. He played with a big band fronted by Chico Marx (1943), was fortunate enough to appear in the classic jazz short Jammin' the Blues (1944), and then worked with the big bands of Charlie Barnet (1944-1945) and Artie Shaw (1945); he also recorded with Shaw's Gramercy Five. Kessel became a busy studio musician in Los Angeles, but was always in demand for jazz records. He toured with the Oscar Peterson Trio for one year (1952-1953) and then, starting in 1953, led an impressive series of records for Contemporary that lasted until 1961 (including several with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne in a trio accurately called the Poll Winners). After touring Europe with George Wein's Newport All-Stars (1968), Kessel lived in London for a time (1969-1970). In 1973, he began touring and recording with the Great Guitars, a group also including Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd. A serious stroke in 1992 put Barney Kessel permanently out of action, but many of his records (which include dates for Onyx, Black Lion, Sonet, and Concord, in addition to many of the Contemporaries) are available, along with several video collections put out by Vestapol. Kessel was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2001, which eventually took his life in May of 2004. He was 80 years old. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

wabash0
I caught part of an old Perry Mason episode not long ago and there was Barney! I don't believe they mentioned his name or the other players but they were an integral though anonymous part of the action. I'd sure like to see that whole episode or get the name.
MY DAD TOOK LESSONS FROM BARNEY AND BARNEY TOLD HIM THAT HE WAS A NATURAL GUITAR PLAYER AND COULD PLAY AS WELL AS HE DID. JOHN B MONTELONGO
Barney could swing his a** off.. better than anybody...oh and by the way HE INVENTED SWEEP PICKING!!! Yes I love Frank Gambale too, but Barney invented it!
Now I can hear why Montgomery and Burrell are so smooth....Ke s s e l can cook when he wants to.
I know Barney through his son , David , we were roommates in college , an excellent guitarist himself , I learned much about the personal side of mr. Kessel , unbelievable talent and innovater of the guitar , truly one of the all time greats , I even met him once.
Hey David , if you're out there , this is Kent , email : tuthmaker@gm a i l . c o m
Grew up on Barney Kessel. I'm old, he must be very old. I love his stuff.
I get goosebumps when I listen to Barney Kessel. You can feel his joy through his playing. My father played the guitar and BK's style was a BIG influence!
Saw Barney play duets live with Herb Ellis. What an amazing night that was! Two of the finest together. Barney's sense of humor was unparalleled , too, as evidenced by one of my favorite album titles of all time: Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By.
grandlake50
I own a classic small body Gibson guitar...and would rather dance than play...but if ever I get past C, G, and F...may I play like this guy...
I love Barney Kessel. He's just got that perfect combination of traits: He can be soulful and bluesy, can burn at blazing tempos, but can melt your soul with his gorgeous chord-melody stuff. It seems like there's nothing he can't do. I'm a bop alto player, who just dabbles in jazz guitar. But if I ever got into guitar in a big way, I'd play like Barney! My favorite jazz guitarist.
One of the musicians who informed/inf l u e n c e d Antonio Carlos Jobim.
savageflaneu r
wow. I feel so incredibly relieved somehow to read all these comments. Gentleman you are wonderful. Sincere thanks for whatever lives you have led that brought you to love BK. Blessings be upon you all!
Barney takes his time and I see a similarity between him and Toots Thielmans (check it out) when Toots hit the guitar. I'd have to wonder what Charlie Christian would have done to a Gibson hollow body with some help from Les Paul.
blauramoore
Barney Kessel was a great player because he valued sound over speed. Anyone can play fast but if you don't know what your doing it sounds like garbage. Barney Kessel played slow and let the beauty of the notes have time to sink in. For this reason Barney Kessel stands out among most jazz guitarists.

Barney Kessel
R.I.P
ditto stonecutter :)
Criminally under rated in the big picture of Jazz, guitar, and swing. Barney Kessel is a legend. As mentioned below, his physical technique was untouchable. His sense of blues phrasing is my favorite of all jazz guitar players. Nobody bent notes on Jazz Guitar better than BK.
Another classic performer. Barney Kessel was a true prodigy.
No effects, no reverb, no vibrato - just great hands, fingers, and master musicianship .
philipjwagne r
In high school, we guitarists kneeled at the foot of our record players, marveling at Barney's sense of line.
always one of my faves.
Barney Kessel set the standard for all Jazz guitarists that followed.

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