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Barney Kessel

Barney Kessel
Background information
Born (1923-10-17)October 17, 1923
Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
Died May 6, 2004(2004-05-06) (aged 80)
San Diego, United States
Genres Jazz, pop, R&B, rock
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1940s–1992
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Chico Marx, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Sonny Rollins, Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Milt Jackson, The Wrecking Crew

Barney Kessel (October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004) was an American jazz guitarist born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Noted in particular for his knowledge of chords and inversions and chord-based melodies, he was a member of many prominent jazz groups as well as a "first call" guitarist for studio, film, and television recording sessions. Kessel was a member of the group of session musicians informally known as the Wrecking Crew.

Contents

  • Biography 1
  • Death 2
  • Discography 3
    • As leader 3.1
    • As sideman 3.2
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Biography

Kessel began his career as a teenager touring with local dance bands before moving on to bands such as that led by Chico Marx. He quickly established himself as a key post-Charlie Christian jazz guitarist. In 1944 he participated in the film Jammin' the Blues, which featured Lester Young, and in 1947 he recorded with Charlie Parker's New Stars on the Relaxin' at Camarillo session for Dial Records.[1] He was rated the No. 1 guitarist in Esquire, Down Beat, and Playboy magazine polls between 1947 and 1960.[2]

Kessel is known for his innovative work in the guitar trio setting. In the 1950s, he made a series of albums called The Poll Winners with Ray Brown on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. He was also the guitarist on the album Julie Is Her Name (1955) by Julie London, which includes the standard "Cry Me a River"; this million-selling song features a guitar part from Kessel which illustrates his melodic chordal approach in a minimal jazz group.[3] Also from the 1950s, his three Kessel Plays Standards volumes contain some of his most polished work.

Kessel was also a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio with Brown for a year, leaving in 1953. The guitar chair was called the hardest gig in show business since Peterson often liked to play at breakneck tempos. Herb Ellis took over from Kessel. Kessel also played with Sonny Rollins in the late 1950s and can be heard on the Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders album on songs like "How High the Moon".

Kessel was a "first call" guitarist at Columbia Pictures during the 1960s, and became one of the most in-demand session guitarists in America, and is considered a key member of the group of first-call session musicians now usually known as The Wrecking Crew. In this capacity he played on hundreds of famous pop recordings, including albums and singles by Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and many others. He appeared in an acting part playing a jazz guitarist named "Barney" in one episode of the Perry Mason TV show. He also wrote and arranged the source music, including a jazz version of "Here Comes the Bride", provided by the jazz combo that featured in the story.

Kessel playing a Guild guitar.

In 1961 The Gibson Guitar Corporation introduced The Barney Kessel model guitar onto the market and continued to make them until 1973. One custom instrument Kessel played was essentially a 12-string guitar neck attached to a mandolin body (similar to Vox's mando guitar), which may have been played on the intro to The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice".

He played Mr. Spock's theme on bass, which first appeared in the Star Trek episode "Amok Time".

During the 1970s, Kessel presented his seminar "The Effective Guitarist" in various locations around the world, and performed extensively with Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd as "The Great Guitars".

Kessel's sons David and Daniel also became session musicians, working with Spector during the 1970s.[4] Kessel was married to B. J. Baker. They were divorced in 1980.

On Pete Townshend's 1983 album Scoop, Townshend paid homage to the guitarist with the instrumental song "To Barney Kessel".

Death

Kessel, who had been in poor health after suffering a stroke in 1992, [5] died of a brain tumor at his home in San Diego, Ca. on Thursday, May 6, 2004. Barney Kessel was 80. He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, in Canandaigua, NY. In addition to his wife Phyllis, Mr. Kessel is survived by two sons from a previous marriage to the former Gail Farmer: Dan, of Hemet, Calif., and David, of Pacific Grove, Calif. Also surviving are three stepchildren from his widow: Christian Wand, of Los Angeles; Colette Wand Wirtschafter, of Marysville, Calif.; and Cleo Dougherty, of Boonton, N.J.; and five grandchildren.

Discography

As leader

As sideman

With Georgie Auld

  • In the Land of Hi-Fi with Georgie Auld and His Orchestra (EmArcy, 1955)

With Chet Baker

With Benny Carter

With Buddy Collette

With Ella Fitzgerald

With Hampton Hawes

  • Four! (Contemporary, 1958)

With Billie Holiday

With Milt Jackson

With Oliver Nelson

With Anita O'Day

With Sonny Rollins

With Shorty Rogers

Bibliography

  • Kessel, Barney;  
  • Marshall, Wolf; Kessel, Barney (2009). Barney Kessel: A Step-by-Step Breakdown of His Guitar Styles and Techniques.  
  • Summerfield, Maurice J.; Kessel, Barney (2008). Barney Kessel: A Jazz Legend. Ashley Mark Publishing.  
  • Kessel, Barney (1992). The Jazz Guitar Artistry of Barney Kessel: Guitar Solo. Ashley Mark Publishing.  
  • Kessel, Barney (1997). The Jazz Guitar Artistry of Barney Kessel, Vol. 2. Ashley Mark Publishing.  
  • Kessel, Barney (2000). The Jazz Guitar Artistry of Barney Kessel, Vol. 3. Ashley Mark Publishing.  

References

  1. ^ The Complete Charlie Parker on Dial at AllMusic
  2. ^ "Barney Kessel". June 12, 2004. Retrieved July 16, 2008. 
  3. ^ The Guinness Who's Who of Fifties Music. General Editor: Colin Larkin. First published 1993 (UK). ISBN 0-85112-732-0. Julie London, p. 210.
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Keepnews, Peter (May 8, 2004). "Barney Kessel, 80, a Guitarist With Legends of Jazz, Dies".  

External links

  • Barney Kessel at AllMusic
  • "Barney Kessel Jazz Scene USA (1962)" on YouTube
  • Barney Kessel at the Wayback Machine (archived December 10, 2007)
  • "Barney Kessel".  
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