Barney Kessel (October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004) was an American jazz guitarist born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Known 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.
|Born||October 17, 1923|
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||May 6, 2004 (aged 80)|
San Diego, California
|Genres||Jazz, Pop, R&B, Rock|
|Labels||Contemporary, Reprise, Black Lion, Concord Jazz, RCA Victor, Sonet, Savoy|
|Associated acts||The Wrecking Crew, Great Guitars|
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 nicknamed him "Fruitcake" because he practiced up to 16 hours a day.
In the early 1940s, he moved to Los Angeles, where for one year he was a member of the Chico Marx big band. He appeared in the film Jammin' the Blues, which featured Lester Young. Soon after, he played in the bands of Charlie Barnet and Artie Shaw. During the day, he worked as a studio musician and at night played jazz in clubs. In 1947, he recorded with Charlie Parker. He worked in Jazz at the Philharmonic and for one year in the early 1950s he was a member of the Oscar Peterson trio. After leaving the trio, he recorded several solo albums for Contemporary. He recorded a series of albums with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne as The Poll Winners because the three of them often won polls conducted by Metronome and DownBeat magazines. He was the guitarist on the album Julie Is Her Name (1955) by Julie London, which includes the standard "Cry Me a River", selling a million copies and demonstrated Kessel's chordal approach to guitar.
During the 1960s, Kessel worked for Columbia Pictures and was a member of a band of sessions musicians 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." He recorded with pop acts such as The Monkees and The Beach Boys and with jazz musicians Sonny Rollins and Art Tatum. Kessel eventually left studio work to concentrate on his jazz career both onstage and on records. Along with solo work, he formed the ensemble Great Guitars with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis.
Kessel was married to B. J. Baker. The couple divorced in 1980. Kessel's sons Dan and David became record producers and session musicians, working with Phil Spector, John Lennon, Cher, and Leonard Cohen. He was married to Phyllis Magary Van Doren from 1992 until his death.
- Barney Kessel (Contemporary, 1954)
- To Swing or Not to Swing (Contemporary, 1955)
- Kessel Plays Standards (Contemporary, 1956)
- Easy Like (Contemporary, 1956)
- Music to Listen to Barney Kessel By (Contemporary, 1957)
- The Poll Winners with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown (Contemporary, 1957)
- The Poll Winners Ride Again! with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown (Contemporary, 1958)
- Modern Jazz Performances from Bizet's Opera Carmen (Contemporary, 1959)
- Some Like It Hot (Contemporary, 1959)
- Poll Winners Three! with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown (Contemporary, 1960)
- Exploring the Scene! with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown (Contemporary, 1960)
- Bossa Nova Plus Big Band (Reprise, 1961)
- El Tigre with Harold Land (Charlie Parker, 1962)
- Let's Cook! (Contemporary, 1962)
- Barney Kessel's Swingin' Party (Contemporary, 1963)
- Contemporary Latin Rhythms (Reprise, 1963)
- On Fire (Emerald, 1965)
- Kessel's Kit (RCA Victor, 1969)
- Reflections in Rome (RCA Victor, 1969)
- Hair Is Beautiful (Atlantic, 1969)
- Feeling Free (Contemporary, 1969)
- What's New... Barney Kessel? (Mercury, 1969)
- Swinging Easy! (Black Lion, 1971)
- I Remember Django with Stephane Grappelli (Black Lion, 1971)
- Limehouse Blues with Stephane Grappelli (Freedom, 1972)
- Summertime in Montreux (Black Lion, 1973)
- Easy Moments with Carlos Pes (Gemelli, 1973)
- Two Way Conversation with Red Mitchell (Sonet, 1974)
- Barney (& Friends) Plays Kessel (Concord Jazz, 1975)
- Just Friends (Sonet, 1975)
- Blue Soul (Black Lion, 1975)
- Great Guitars with Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis (Concord Jazz, 1975)
- The Poll Winners: Straight Ahead with Ray Brown, Shelly Manne (Contemporary, 1975)
- Poor Butterfly with Herb Ellis (Concord Jazz, 1977)
- Soaring (Concord Jazz, 1977)
- Live at Sometime (Trio, 1977)
- A Tribute to the Great Hollywood Stars with Junko Mine (Trio, 1977)
- By Myself (Victor, 1977)
- Great Guitars at the Winery with Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis (Concord Jazz, 1980)
- Solo (Concord, 1983)
- Great Guitars at Charlie's Georgetown (Concord Jazz, 1983)
- Spontaneous Combustion with Monty Alexander (Contemporary, 1987)
- Red Hot and Blues (Contemporary, 1988)
- Autumn Leaves (Black Lion, 1989)
- Great Guitars Live with Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis (Concord 2001)
- Live at the Jazz Mill 1954 (Modern Harmonic, 2016)
- Live at the Jazz Mill 1954 Vol. 2 (Modern Harmonic, 2018)
With Benny Carter
- Alone Together (Norgran, 1955)
- Cosmopolite (Norgran, 1956)
- Jazz Giant (Contemporary, 1958)
- Aspects (United Artists, 1959)
With The Coasters
- ‘'Riot in Cell Block Number 9’' (Spark Records, 1954)
- One Kiss Led to Another (Atco, 1956)
- Down in Mexico (Atco, 1956)
- Young Blood (Atco, 1957)
- ‘'Searchin' (Atco, 1957)
With Buddy DeFranco
- Generalissimo (Verve, 1959)
- Live Date (Verve, 1959)
- Bravura (Verve, 1959)
- Wailers (Verve, 1960)
With Harry Edison
With Sonny & Cher
- Look at Us (Atco Records, 1965)
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 Julie London
- Julie Is Her Name (1955)
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, 1956)
- Way Up There (Atlantic, 1957)
- 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, 1958)
- An Adventure in Sound: Brass in Hi-Fi (Mercury, 1958)
- Georgie Auld, In the Land of Hi-Fi with Georgie Auld and His Orchestra (EmArcy)
- Louis Bellson, Skin Deep (Norgran, 1953)
- Chet Baker, Albert's House (Beverly Hills, 1969)
- Buddy Collette, Man of Many Parts (Contemporary, 1956)
- Sam Cooke, Night Beat (RCA Victor, 1963)
- Sam Cooke, Ain't That Good News (RCA, 1964)
- Sonny Criss, Go Man (Imperial, 1956)
- Dion DiMucci, Born to Be with You (Collectables, 1975)
- Roy Eldridge, Dale's Wail (Clef, 1953)
- Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (Verve, 1956)
- Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Criss, Jazz Concert West Coast (Savoy, 1956)
- Hampton Hawes, Four! (Contemporary, 1958)
- Woody Herman, Songs for Hip Lovers (Verve, 1957)
- Milt Jackson, Ballads & Blues (Atlantic, 1956)
- Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, The Drum Battle (Verve, 1960)
- Oliver Nelson, Soulful Brass (Impulse!, 1968)
- Art Pepper and Zoot Sims, Art 'n' Zoot (Pablo, 1995)
- Oscar Peterson, The Oscar Peterson Quartet (Verve, 1955)
- Oscar Peterson, Romance: The Vocal Styling of Oscar Peterson (Verve, 1956)
- Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders (Contemporary, 1958)
- 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. OCLC 79391800.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- 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.
- Summerfield, Maurice J.; Kessel, Barney (2008). Barney Kessel: A Jazz Legend. Ashley Mark Publishing. ISBN 978-1872639697.
- Marshall, Wolf; Kessel, Barney (2009). Barney Kessel: A Step-by-Step Breakdown of His Guitar Styles and Techniques. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423430476.
- Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. pp. 108–109. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
- Yanow, Scott. "Barney Kessel". AllMusic. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
- Larkin, Colin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Fifties Music. Guinness. p. 210. ISBN 0-85112-732-0.
- Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780312619749.
- "Barney Kessel". June 12, 2004. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
- Brown, Mick (2008). Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector. Vintage Books. ISBN 978-1400076611.
- Keepnews, Peter (May 8, 2004). "Barney Kessel, 80, a Guitarist With Legends of Jazz, Dies". The New York Times.
- Barney Kessel at AllMusic
- Barney Kessel discography at Discogs
- 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