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Barney Kessel Biography

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Barney Kessel (October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004) was an American jazz guitarist born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA. He began his career as a teenager touring with local dance bands before moving on to bands such as that led by Chico Marx. He quickly established himself as a key post-Charlie Christian jazz guitarist. In 1944 he participated in the Lester Young film "Jammin' the Blues" and in 1947 he recorded with Charlie Parker's New Stars on the "Relaxin' at Camarillo" session for Dial Records.

Barney Kessel is known for his innovative work in the guitar trio setting. In the 1950s, he made a series of albums called "The Poll Winners" with Ray Brown on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. He was also responsible for the prominent guitar on Julie London's definitive recording of "Cry Me a River".

Kessel was also a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown in the early 1950s. The guitar chair was called the hardest gig in show business since Peterson often liked to play at breakneck tempos. Herb Ellis took over from Kessel after a year or so.

A "first call" guitarist at Columbia Pictures, during the 1960s Kessel became one of the most in-demand session guitarists in America, and is considered a key member of the group of first-call session musicians now usually known as The Wrecking Crew. In this capacity he played on hundreds of famous pop recordings including albums and singles by Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and many others. He appeared (in an acting part, not as a guitarist) in one episode of the Perry Mason TV show.

During the 1970s, Kessel presented his seminar 'The Effective Guitarist' in various locations around the world.

Kessel released several solo albums even late into his life. "The Blue Guitar" and "Kessel Plays Standards" were both released late in his career, showcasing his longevity as a performer and his undying creativity.

Kessel died of brain cancer in San Diego, California. He had been in poor health after suffering a stroke in 1992.
 
 
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