Two for Tuesday: Barney Kessel

I’m going to feature some of my favorite jazz guitar players from the post-World War II period over the next couple of weeks. First up is Barney Kessel.

Barney was “an Okie from Muskogee,” you might say, having been born in that town in 1923. He’s best known for his improvisational style in a trio setting and for being a first-line session player and guitar teacher in the 1960’s and beyond. He’s also known for his work with Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd, performing as “The Great Guitars.” He had a seminar called “The Effective Guitarist,” presented to many players during the 1970’s. On his 1983 album Scoop, Pete Townshend dedicated an instrumental, “For Barney Kessel,” to him.

Barney suffered a stroke in 1992, effectively ending his career, and died of a brain tumor in 2004, but left behind many recordings and instructional materials. We’ll probably be hearing many young players who were influenced by him for years to come.

On to the music. First up is a solo chord melody arrangement of Bacharach and David’s “Alfie,” from the movie of the same name. It was taped in 1979 at The Maintenance Shop in Ames, Iowa.

Second is an example of his trio work, with Bob Maize on bass and Jimmie Smith on drums, his rendering of the standard “Shiny Stockings.” It appeared on Concord’s 1996 album Jellybeans.

There are a number of other recordings and videos of him on YouTube, including a number of his instructional videos. Be sure to check them out.

Barney Kessel, your Two for Tuesday, September 23, 2014.

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