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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BARNEY KESSEL

Three Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 1064

 

 

CD1
Some Like It Hot
1. Some Like It Hot
2. I Wanna Be Loved By You
3. Stairway To The Stars
4. Sweet Sue
5. Runnin' Wild
6. Sweet Georgia Brown
7. Down Among The Sheltering Palms
8. Sugar Blues
9. I'm Thru With Love
10. By The Beautiful Sea
 
Barney Kessel - Guitar
Art Pepper - Clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax
Joe Gordon - Trumpet
Jimmie Rowles - Piano
Jack Marshall - Rhythm guitar
Monty Budwig - Bass
Shelly Manne - Drums
 
The Poll Winners
11. Jordu
12. Satin Doll
13. It Could Happen To You
14. Mean To Me
15. Don't Worry `bout Me
16. Green Dolphin Street
17. You Go To My Head
18. Minor Mood
19. Nagasaki
 
Barney Kessel - Guitar
Ray Brown - Bass
Shelly Manne - Drums
 
CD2
Carmen
1. Swingin' The Toreador
2. A Pad On The Edge Of Town
3. If You Dig Me
4. Free As A Bird
5. Viva El Toro!
6. Flowersville
7. Carmen's Cool
8. Like, There's No Place Like
9. The Gypsy's Hip
 
Barney Kessel - Guitar
Buddy Collette - Flute
Ray Linn - Trumpet
Victor Feldman - Vibraharp
Andr‚ Previn - Piano
Joe Mondragon - Bass
Shelly Manne - Drums
 
The Poll Winners Ride Again
10. Be Deedle Dee Do
11. Volare (Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu)
12. Spring Is Here
13. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top
14. Custard Puff
15. When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along
16. Angel Eyes
17. The Merry Go Round Broke Down
 
Barney Kessel - Guitar
Ray Brown - Bass
Shelly Manne - Drums
 

 

Barney Kessel was a legitimate bebop guitarist who established a certain style that was the basis for the playing of Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd. Kessel and his contemporaries were the masters of single-note lines that allowed them to be on the front-lines of the bands and freed them from the rhythm sections. These sessions recorded between 1957 and 1959 showcased some of Barney Kessel's best playing and are a welcome addition to the Avid Jazz re-issues.

Some Like It Hot

Billy Wilder's 1959 screwball comedy of the same name starred Marilyn Munroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Both Kessel and Shelly Manne were part of the orchestra that recorded the film score, and thus the impetus to create a jazz version of music came from a solid source. Under Kessel's aegis, a number of highly-rated jazz musicians were brought together to convey a contemporary touch to compositions associated with the 1920s. The opening title track features Kessel on bass guitar which he also uses on Sweet Georgia Brown. (This is not the four-stringed instrument that sometimes replaces the stringed-bass, but rather a six-stringed amplified guitar.) In most of the tunes the band states the composition's theme, with Kessel's guitar integrated as part of the front line. These head arrangements with their relaxed and free structure, then give everyone a chance to fill eight to twelve bars of solo space, before the closing chorus. While there are no ah ha! moments in this album, everyone acquits themselves with distinction. Pianist Jimmy Rowles shows off his swinging oblique style on I Wanna Be Loved By You and multi-reedman Art Pepper demonstrates his versatility on the up-tempo versions of Sweet Sue and Runnin' Wild. Trumpeter Joe Gordon, who was a member of Shelly Manne and his Men at the time of this recording, demonstrates his delicate yet blazing technique on Sweet Georgia Brown. For those wanting unadulterated Kessel, he can be heard in a duo format with bassist Monty Budwig on Stairway To The Stars and I'm Thru With Love.

The Poll Winners

In 1956, Down Beat, Playboy and Metronome named Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne as the winners of their readers' polls in their respective instrument category. What better reason, then, than to bring them together for a recording session to capitalize on this success. It was the precursor to a total of five albums that the group would do together. This intimate setting would provide a structure that allows each to shine, but the bulk of the work would be carried by Kessel. So with Barney leading the way, the group leads off with a laid-back version of Duke Jordan's Jordu, which then easily rolls into an expressively affectionate rendition of Ellington's Satin Doll. Although this was the first time the group had worked together, and it was not anticipated that there would be any ongoing club performances, it is clear the empathy that each member has for the other. This was not surprising for Kessel and Brown, as they both were members of an early iteration of the Oscar Peterson Trio. Although at this point, Manne had done little or no work with smaller groups, he was such a sensitive and commanding drummer, that his adaptation to this smaller setting was seamless. All in all, the session lives up to its billing.

Carmen

The above-noted opera by George Bizet provides the backdrop for Barney Kessel and a group of Los Angeles-based jazz musicians to offer their take on this opera's main musical themes using skillful arrangements drawn up by Kessel. The names that Kessel has assigned the compositions bears no relationship to the operatic score, nor are they played in the same order as performed in the opera. Nevertheless any person familiar with the opera would be able to detect their origins even if the liner notes were not consulted. No attempt will be made to link these jazz and operatic compositions in this review as it is too lengthy an exercise and may not prove to be too enlightening in any event. Needless to say the Kessel scoring of the libretto is both sprightly and engaging, with Andr‚ Previn's inventive and percussive piano in the forefront of Swinging The Toreador and A Pad On The Edge Of Town along with Buddy Collette on flute and Kessel's guitar both with long solos on the latter tune. There are a couple of purely improvisional selections namely If You Dig Me and Carmen's Cool where Victor Feldman on vibes joins Kessel and the rhythm section to give a real lift to the session.

The Poll Winners Ride Again

Given the success of the first album, within eighteen months Contemporary Records had the trio back in the studio for a new session. The track list was more eclectic than the first effort, and included several tunes that would not generally be classified in the jazz genre. Despite this, the results were first-rate. While the approach to the tunes is similar, it is not repetitious, as the players display the inventiveness required to retain the listener's interest. There are a couple of notable tracks including the unlikely Volare which is a swinging gem with Kessel on acoustic guitar and features some marvellous interplay among the three participants. The wistful Angel Eyes is given an exemplary reading.

Overall these four albums are a splendid example of a post-Charlie Christian guitarist in top-flight form.

Pierre Giroux



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