|Born||October 17, 1923|
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||May 6, 2004 (aged 80)|
San Diego, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, pop, R&B, rock|
|Labels||Columbia, Contemporary, Reprise, Black Lion|
|Associated acts||Chico Marx, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Sonny Rollins, Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Milt Jackson, The Wrecking Crew, Sam Cooke|
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.
Kessel began his career as a teenager touring with local dance bands. When he was 16, he started playing with the Oklahoma A & M band, "Hal Price & the Varsitonians". The band members lovingly nicknamed him "Fruitcake" because he used to practice up to 16 hours a day. He then moved 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. He was rated the No. 1 guitarist in Esquire, Down Beat, and Playboy magazine polls between 1947 and 1960.
Kessel was known for his innovative work in the guitar trio setting. In the 1950s, he made a series of four 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. Kessel also did the same for Sarah Vaughan on her album Sarah + 2 recorded in 1962.
Barney Kessel was the winner of the prestigious Down Beat magazine readers poll in 1956, 1957 and 1958 and played the Kay Jazz Special K8700 exclusively during that era. In 1960, Barney left Kay but the production of these guitars continued without his signature.
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. At one point after a two and a half hour session to record a one-chord song, "The Beat Goes On", Kessel is reported to have stood up and proclaimed, "Never have so many played so little for so much."
Kessel was married to B. J. Baker. They were divorced in 1980. Kessel's sons Dan and David also became record producers and session musicians, working with Phil Spector, John Lennon, Cher and Leonard Cohen.
- Swing Guitars (Verve, 1952 [rel. 1955]) - split album shared with Oscar Moore and Tal Farlow, 4 tracks each.
- Barney Kessel [10" LP] (Contemporary, 1953 [rel. 1954])
- Barney Kessel Volume 2 [10" LP] (Contemporary, 1954)
- Barney Kessel Volume 1: Easy Like (Contemporary, 1956) re-release of Barney Kessel with 4 tracks added on.
- Barney Kessel, Vol. 2: Kessel Plays Standards (Contemporary, 1956) re-release of Barney Kessel Volume 2 with 4 tracks added on.
- Barney Kessel, Vol. 3: To Swing or Not to Swing (Contemporary, 1955)
- Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By (Contemporary, 1956)
- The Poll Winners (Contemporary, 1957) - with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown
- Let's Cook! (Contemporary, 1957 [rel. 1962])
- The Poll Winners Ride Again! (Contemporary, 1958) - with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown
- Modern Jazz Performances from Bizet's Opera "Carmen" (Contemporary, 1958)
- Modern Jazz Performances of Songs Featured in the Motion Picture "Some Like It Hot" (Contemporary, 1959)
- Poll Winners Three! (Contemporary, 1959) - with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown
- Barney Kessel's Swingin' Party At Contemporary (Contemporary, 1960 [rel. 1963])
- The Poll Winners: Exploring the Scene! (Contemporary, 1960) - with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown
- Workin' Out! with the Barney Kessel Quartet (Contemporary, 1961)
- Barney Kessel & Harold Land: El Tigre (Charlie Parker Records, 1962) - reissue of the 1958 Tampa album Let's Get Acquainted With Jazz...For People Who Hate Jazz! originally released under Jimmy Rowles' name.
- Barney Kessel & His Men: Music from Breakfast at Tiffany's (Reprise, 1962)
- Barney Kessel Plus Big Band: Bossa Nova (Reprise, 1962)
- Kessel/Jazz: Contemporary Latin Rhythms! (Reprise, 1963)
- The Fantastic Guitar of Barney Kessel: On Fire [AKA Slow Burn] (Emerald, 1965)
- Guitar Workshop (Saba/MPS, 1967) - live recording/various artists including Jim Hall, Buddy Guy, Elmer Snowden, Baden Powell
- Hair is Beautiful [AKA Aquarius: The Music From Hair] (Atlantic, 1968)
- Swinging Easy! [AKA Autumn Leaves] (Black Lion, 1968 [rel. 1971])
- I Remember Django [AKA Stephane Grappelli Meets Barney Kessel] (Black Lion, 1969 [rel. 1971])
- Limehouse Blues [AKA Tea For Two] (Black Lion, 1969 [rel. 1972]) - with Stephane Grappelli
- Summertime In Montreux [AKA Yesterday] (Black Lion, 1973)
- Blue Soul (Black Lion, 1968–1969 [rel. 1975])
- Feeling Free (Contemporary, 1969) - with Bobby Hutcherson
- What's New...Barney Kessel? (Mercury [France], 1969)
- Reflections in Rome [AKA Barney Kessel] (RCA Victor [Italy], 1969)
- Kessel's Kit (RCA Victor [Italy], 1969)
- Guitarra: It's Modern It Swings It's Vibrant (RCA Camden, 1970) - reissue of Kessel's Kit
- Two Way Conversation (Sonet, 1973 [rel. 1974]) - with Red Mitchell
- Just Friends [live] (Sonet, 1973 [rel. 1975])
- The Poll Winners: Straight Ahead (Contemporary, 1975) - with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown
- Great Guitars [live] (Concord Jazz, 1975) - with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis
- Barney Plays Kessel [AKA Barney Kessel & Friends] (Concord Jazz, 1975)
- Great Guitars II [studio] (Concord Jazz, 1976) - with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis
- By Myself (Victor [Japan], 1977)
- Live at Sometime (Trio [Japan], 1977)
- Soaring (Concord Jazz, 1977)
- Poor Butterfly (Concord Jazz, 1977) - with Herb Ellis
- Great Guitars: Straight Tracks (Concord Jazz, 1978) - with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis
- Great Guitars At The Winery (Concord Jazz, 1980) - with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis
- Jellybeans (Concord Jazz, 1981)
- Great Guitars At Charlie's Georgetown (Concord Jazz, 1983) - with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis
- Solo (Concord Jazz, 1983)
- The Artistry of Barney Kessel (Contemporary, 1986) - compilation; material recorded 1953–1969
- Spontaneous Combustion (Contemporary, 1987) - with the Monty Alexander Trio
- Red Hot and Blues (Contemporary, 1988) - with Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Barron
- It's a Blue World (Jazz Hour, 1990) - compilation; material recorded 1968–1969 and 1973
- The Concord Jazz Heritage Series: Barney Kessel (Concord Jazz, 1998) - compilation
- Salute to Charlie Christian (Past Perfect, 2002) - compilation; material recorded 1952–1954
- Plays for Lovers (Contemporary, 2003) - compilation; material recorded 1953–1988
- Military Swing (PJL/Jazzbank [Japan], 2006) - recorded 1958–1961
- Live in Los Angeles at P.J.'s Club (Gambit, 2006) - reissue of The Fantastic Guitar Of Barney Kessel: On Fire
- Blues for a Playboy (FiveFour, 2007) - compilation; material recorded 1952–1956
- Live at The Jazz Mill 1954 (Modern Harmonic/Sundazed, 2016) - with the "Jazz Millers" trio
- Live at The Jazz Mill 1954, Vol. 2 (Modern Harmonic/Sundazed, 2018) - with the "Jazz Millers" trio
With Benny Carter
- Alone Together (Norgran, 1952 )
- Cosmopolite (Norgran, 1952 )
- Jazz Giant (Contemporary, 1958)
- Aspects (United Artists, 1959)
With Buddy DeFranco
- Generalissimo (Verve, 1959)
- Live Date (Verve, 1959)
- Bravura (Verve, 1959)
- Wailers (Verve, 1960)
With Harry Edison
With Billie Holiday
- Billie Holiday Sings (Clef, 1952)
- Billie Holiday (Clef, 1953)
- Billie Holiday (Clef, 1954)
- Billie Holiday at JATP (Clef, 1954)
- Music for Torching (Clef, 1956)
- Velvet Mood (Clef, 1956)
- Lady Sings the Blues (Clef, 1956)
- Body and Soul (Verve, 1957)
- Songs for Distingué Lovers (Verve, 1957)
- All or Nothing at All (Verve, 1958)
With Anita O'Day
- This Is Anita (Verve, 1956)
- Pick Yourself Up with Anita O'Day (Verve, 1957)
- Anita Sings the Winners (Verve, 1958)
- Anita O'Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May (Verve, 1959)
- Trav'lin' Light (Verve, 1961)
With Shorty Rogers
- Martians Come Back! (Atlantic, 1955 )
- Way Up There (Atlantic, 1955 )
- Chances Are It Swings (RCA Victor, 1958)
- The Wizard of Oz and Other Harold Arlen Songs (RCA Victor, 1959)
With Pete Rugolo
- Out on a Limb (EmArcy, 1956)
- An Adventure in Sound: Reeds in Hi-Fi (Mercury, 1956 )
- An Adventure in Sound: Brass in Hi-Fi (Mercury 1956 )
- Jazz Concert West Coast, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Criss (Savoy, 1947 [rel. 1956])
- Jazz Concert West Coast, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Criss (Regent, 1947 [rel. 1957])
- The Oscar Peterson Quartet, Oscar Peterson (Verve, 1951–1952 [rel. 1955])
- Romance: The Vocal Styling of Oscar Peterson, Oscar Peterson (Verve, 1952/1953/1954) [rel. 1956])
- The Drum Battle, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich (Verve, 1952 [rel. 1960])
- Skin Deep, Louis Bellson (Norgran, 1953)
- Dale's Wail, Roy Eldridge (Clef, 1953)
- In the Land of Hi-Fi with Georgie Auld and His Orchestra, Georgie Auld (EmArcy)
- Go Man, Sonny Criss (Imperial, 1956)
- Man of Many Parts, Buddy Collette (Contemporary, 1956)
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, Ella Fitzgerald (Verve, 1956)
- Ballads & Blues, Milt Jackson (Atlantic, 1956)
- Songs for Hip Lovers, Woody Herman (Verve, 1957)
- Four!, Hampton Hawes (Contemporary, 1958)
- Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders, Sonny Rollins (Contemporary, 1958)
- Night Beat, Sam Cooke (RCA Victor, 1963)
- Soulful Brass, Oliver Nelson (Impulse!, 1968)
- Albert's House, Chet Baker (Beverly Hills, 1969)
- Art 'n' Zoot, Art Pepper and Zoot Sims (Pablo, 1981 [rel. 1995])
- Kessel, Barney; Laurindo Almeida, Howard Heitmeyer, Al Hendrickson, Bill Pitman, Bob Bain, Jack Marshall, Howard Roberts (1961). West Coast Guitar: Eight Original Solos for Guitar. New York: Leeds Music Corporation. ASIN B0080YPG16.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Marshall, Wolf; Kessel, Barney (2009). Barney Kessel: A Step-by-Step Breakdown of His Guitar Styles and Techniques. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423430476.
- Summerfield, Maurice J.; Kessel, Barney (2008). Barney Kessel: A Jazz Legend. Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 978-1872639697.
- Kessel, Barney (1992). The Jazz Guitar Artistry of Barney Kessel: Guitar Solo. Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 978-0793516438.
- Kessel, Barney (1997). The Jazz Guitar Artistry of Barney Kessel, Vol. 2. Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 978-0793587056.
- Kessel, Barney (2000). The Jazz Guitar Artistry of Barney Kessel, Vol. 3. Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 978-0634023231.
- The Complete Charlie Parker on Dial at AllMusic
- "Barney Kessel". June 12, 2004. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
- 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.
- Hartman, Kent, The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, New York, 2012 p. 163.
- Keepnews, Peter (May 8, 2004). "Barney Kessel, 80, a Guitarist With Legends of Jazz, Dies". The New York Times.
- Brown, Mick (2008). Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector. Vintage Books. ISBN 978-1400076611.
- Barney Kessel at AllMusic
- on YouTube
- "Barney Kessel". Archived from the original on December 10, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2006.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
- "Barney Kessel". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
- Barney Kessel Interview NAMM Oral History Library (1999)
- Barney Kessel Signature Phrases & Analysis