Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Chord & Spark: Barney Kessel 100

Barney Kessel Trio - St. Thomas

We're comfortably stuck in 1979, with the second of three wildly divergent concerts from that watershed musical year hitting the bricks tonight.

Say what you like about my page, but this has to be the only bootleg blog on the web that gives you Dame Joan Sutherland, Barney Kessel and The Yellow Magic Orchestra in three consecutive posts. And the shows are all from the same damn year!

Ah, yes.... Barney Kessel. You know I love the centennials. I am sitting here hoping Roy Haynes -- and then, Sonny Rollins -- make it to 100, so I can do my first ones where the person is still alive.

When I think of Barney Kessel, I think of chords. Just galaxies, infinite polyverses of chords upon chords.

Which is kinda ironic, when you consider his most notorious and conspicuous fame came from playing a sequence of single notes, on a session in which the motivator insisted upon him being there and that he play a specific and exotic sort of hybrid guitar no one even knew about at the time.

The song? Wouldn't It Be Nice? by the Beach Boys. The motivator? Brian Wilson. The guitar? A Mando-guitar. The notes? The opening solo intro to the tune, some of the most recognizable in all of music history.

It's just a few bars but it made him money, I bet. This, for a guy who once rose from his seat at a stalled Wrecking Crew session and proclaimed, "Never have so many played so little, for so much!"

But back to the chords. This man was like a living, breathing encyclopedia of them that almost made Joe Pass seem like Grant Green.

If you heard him play a phrase of single notes, you pretty much knew it was only to get to the next lush, sonorous and expertly voiced chord.

He began in the 1940s -- in one of the Marx Brothers' bands!!! -- and it wasn't too long before he was appearing in films alongside Lester Young and jamming with Charlie Parker.

At the same time, he developed a reputation as the first-call session cat in Los Angeles, playing on hits like Julie London's zillion-selling version of Cry Me a River.

By the 1960s he was a main guy in the aforementioned Wrecking Crew, adding his melliflous chordal guitarisms to all sorts of megahits like Sonny & Cher's The Beat Goes On and several Monkees smashes.

All this, whilst maintaining a footing firmly planted in the straight-ahead Jazz world, recording with Art Tatum and that Sonny Rollins fellow I spoke of earlier.

Perhaps his most beloved Jazz association is with the superlative guitarists Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis, with whom he formed the Great Guitars band that toured the Earth beginning in the mid 1970s.

Anyway he passed away in 2004, after a long and indescribably fruitful career across the music of the 20th Century, and the chordally immersive way he approached his instrument will resonate with players and listeners alike long after we are all dead and buried.

Here he is leading a trio on Swiss television in (when else but?) 1979, sourced from a Mezzo TV rebroadcast on somebody's satellite dish.

Barney Kessel Trio
unidentified TV studio
likely Geneva, Switzerland
January, 1979

01 Autumn Leaves
02 Misty
03 Moose the Mooche
04 The Shadow of Your Smile
05 I Can't Get Started
06 You Are the Sunshine of My Life
07 Stella By Starlight
08 St. Thomas
09 Basie's Blues
10 Wave
11 18 Bar Blues

Total time: 1:05:29

Barney Kessel - guitar
Jim Richardson - bass
Tony Mann - drums

256/48k audio from a European "Mezzo TV" broadcast
extracted, converted to 16/44 CD Audio, edited, tracked and slightly remastered by EN, October 2023
333 MB FLAC/direct link

So that's BK100, born this day in 1923. See you tomorrow for the YMO dual memorial and 44th anniversary special, because on this page, we insist you party like it's 1979!--J.

10.17.1923 - 5.6.2004

1 comment:

  1. I love this - thank you! Crazy as it seems with all his credits, I only learned of BK a couple of years ago and am thrilled to hear more.