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Barney Kessel

Updated on November 10, 2015

Jazz guitarist Barney Kessel was a regular with Oscar Peterson, but teamed with many other greats including Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Julie London, Ray Brown, Shelley Manne and Stephane Grappelli.

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Barney was born on October 17, 1923 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was a member of the group of session musicians informally known as The Wrecking Crew, with whom he played on hundreds of famous pop recordings, including albums and singles by The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, The Monkees and many, many others. Barney was renowned for his knowledge of chords and inversions and chord-based melodies. He was a member of many prominent jazz groups, as well as a "first call" guitarist for studio, film, and television recording sessions.

Barney began his career touring with local dance bands when he was still in his teens before he moved on to bands like the one led by Chico Marx. In 1944 he took part in the filming of Jammin The Blues, which featured the great saxophonist Lester Young. He recorded with Charlie Parker's New Stars on the Relaxin' at Camarillo session in 1947.

Between 1947 and 1960 Barney was rated the No. 1 guitarist in polls by Esquire Down Beat and Playboy magazines.

Barney is remembered for his work in trios. He made a series of albums called The Poll Winners with Ray Brown on bass and Shelley Manne on drums in the 1950s. In 1955, on the album Julie Is Her Name by Julie London, which includes the million seller Cry Me A River, Barney is the guitarist. Some of his most outstanding work can be heard his three Kessel Plays Standards albums, also from the 1950s,

For a year (1952-1953) Barney was a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio along with Ray Brown. In the late 1950s Barney played with Sonny Rollins.

During the 1960s was a "first call" guitarist at Columbia Pictures and became one of the most in-demand session guitarists in America.

Barney presented his seminar "The Effective Guitarist" in the 1970s at various locations around the world, and he performed extensively with Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd as"The Great Guitars".

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