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Barney Kessel


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One of the finest guitarists to emerge after the death of Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel (October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004) 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 (1944-45) 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 (1952-53) 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 (1969-70).

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 currently available along with several video collections put out by Vestapol.

In 2004, Kessel died of brain cancer in San Diego, California.


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  • Sakul01

    Hey folks... please check out m new group Joe Pass lovers

    2 Jul 2010 Reply
  • jvaahtera

    Barney Kessel - waaaahhhh!! No one like him - except the great Charlie Christian. Number one guitarist in my book.

    28 Mar 2010 Reply
  • pillowtalk

    amanin barni!

    4 Mar 2009 Reply
  • crackinkid

    luv his style :)

    15 Dec 2008 Reply
  • F_Hole

    I enjoy all the speedsters, but BK had the tone (like butter), and all with the downstroke pick-style of Charlie Christian. One thing I didn't know about him until I saw him play was that he was hysterically funny; he'd grab the mike between tunes and amazed me with his wit and intellect. I miss you, Barney.

    8 Dec 2008 Reply
  • kaitheory

    BK jams somethin' fierce eh?

    23 Nov 2008 Reply
  • Lorolux

    For me, he is now one of the best Jazz-Guitarists! When you listen to his versions of Autumn Leaves or Greend Dolphin St. you will hear that he wasn´t just a very good guitarplayer but also a great improviser and he had originality! Thank you

    2 Oct 2008 Reply
  • mj_bossa

    muito bom !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    19 Jul 2008 Reply

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