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Barney Kessel

Biography

Following the death of Charlie Christian and prior to the rise of Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel was the jazz guitarist, and like nearly every other jazz guitarist, he used Christian's advances as a template. Kessel was a strong improvisor blessed with a deep sense of Swing, yet he still consumed the idioms of Bop and Cool whole. He could jam endlessly or build upon slow ballads, letting his notes drift in the air. Kessel dominated the jazz polls throughout the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and was a major figure in the West Coast jazz scene of the era. A studio mainstay, he played with practically every big name on the map: Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, and Frank Sinatra, to name a few. Kessel could work with each of these artists without ever altering or losing his own voice –- he was the chameleon who didn't need to change colors to fit in.
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