Why not buy one less CD this week and send the money to Barney Kessel
who has made such an invaluable contribution to jazz music yet can't
pay his medical bills?
May 23, 2002
Attention All Media
Legendary jazz guitarist, Barney Kessel needs your help. He was
with terminal brain cancer in November 2001. He had surgery, Gamma
radiation and therapy to rehabilitate him enough so he could come home
late January 2002. The radiation slowed the growth of the very
non-operable tumor (anaplastic astrocytoma). Barney requires 24 hour
care and therapy. He is almost blind, but he is able to still talk a
on the phone and receives visitors and enjoys listening to music.
has no life insurance. He has not worked in over ten years due to a
stroke. His Social Security covers his rent. His wife, Phyllis works
time and her entire salary goes towards Barney's care.
Please send all checks to:
MRS. PHYLLIS KESSEL
4445 North Ave.
San Diego, CA 92116-3940
Please note: ALL monies are going directly to the source who needs it
like other charities), going directly to Barney and Phyllis,
Barney Kessel is a legend in the history of jazz, one of the most
voices ever to play the guitar. During a 1991 engagement at New York's venerable Village Vanguard, the New York Post wrote, he's "one of the
guitarists in jazz" and the New York Times referred to him as "a
Critic Leonard Feather called him "as lyrical a guitarist as we have
jazz...a rhythmic natural who can outswing any man in the house."
Andre Previn?s praises for him are that "he has a staggering amount of technique, a healthy respect for the traditional, a ceaseless
the experimental, and an admirable and lovely harmonic sense." Nat
says simply, he?s "one of the most extraordinarily consistent and
emotionally huge improvisers of our era."
Kessel, known for his brilliant harmonic improvisation, bluesy and hard-driving earthy style, is one of the swingingest players in jazz.
master at pulling every last bit of emotion from a beautiful ballad,
the other extreme setting an audience on fire with an up-tempo jazz
standard, he also delighted audiences with his natural talent for
comedy. A stroke in May of 1992 left him unable to play but he is
A composer and arranger (the jazz classic Swedish Pastry is perhaps
best known tune), he was also a popular teacher giving seminars and
workshops all over the world. Kessel originated the idea of the guitar
used instead of a piano as the predominate voice of a jazz trio with
and drums. His five history-making Poll Winners albums, with Shelly
on drums and Ray Brown on bass, set the tone for all the guitar
came after them.
Kessel was also the first one to use the guitar to sound like a full
orchestra. His landmark 1955 recording with Julie London, Julie is Her
and its memorable Cry Me a River is an early example of his ability
arrangements which bring out full orchestral tonal colors with only a
bass and electric guitar. He was also the first in modern jazz to use
flute and oboe on his recordings. Author of the book,The Guitar, he
three videos explaining improvisation in detail for Rumark Video.
Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on October l7, l923, Kessel has played
recorded with a long list of jazz greats including Lester Young,
Parker, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben Webster and Sonny Rollins. Charlie Christian heard of
and came to see him play in Oklahoma City, and to play with him, when
was only l6.
From the early l940s Kessel played and recorded with the big bands of
Marx (1942-43), Artie Shaw (1944-45), Benny Goodman (1947, 1958) and
Barnet (1945,1946 and 1947). He was one of the original members of
Peterson's Trio in l952-53. A winner of all the major jazz polls
Downbeat, Metronome, Melody Maker and Playboy for several years, he
most popular jazz guitarist of the 1950s and 1960s. He worked for
years in Hollywood as an arranger and freelance musician for radio,
of films and TV shows such as Steve Allen and Hollywood Palace, and
original music for many commercials including Der Wiener Schnitzel and
Krispies. He performed and recorded with such diverse talents as Fred Astaire, Lawrence Welk, the Beach Boys, Barbara Streisand, Liberace,
Presley, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier, Gene
Sonny and Cher and the Righteous Brothers. He was on many of Phil
pop records and also was an A&R man for Verve Records where he
Ricky Nelson?s first big hit and produced the records Woody Herman
He was featured in the l944 award-winning documentary filmJammin? the
with Lester Young and other jazz greats, and as a member of Norman
Jazz at the Philharmonic became well-known in Europe from the time of
JATP 1952 tour. Kessel was a musical ambassador for the State
during the Carter Administration and he played in the White House for
Presidents Carter and Nixon.
Successful 199l tours included the United States, Canada, Portugal,
Italy, Germany, the British Isles and Japan. 199l also marked his
into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame along with the late Chet Baker. In
1992 prior to his stroke he got rave reviews playing in Australia, New Zealand and all across the United States. On May 26, 1992, Kessel
severe stroke which ended his playing career. His memory was not
and he keeps active in the music field.
His recordings for Contemporary, Concord and many foreign labels, too numerous to mention, are collectors items today and an important part
jazz history. He even composed and arranged a jazz version of the
Carmen (1958) and recorded it featuring Andr?Previn on piano. The
Kessel album to be recorded is the superb Red, Hot and Blues on Contemporary. He has Kenny Barron, Bobby Hutcherson, Rufus Reid and
Riley playing his own compositions, standards and jazz classics.
Kessel has been featured on television many times over the years,
the Johnny Carson show. In 1995, Vestapol Videos released a one hour
titled Barney Kessel Rare Performances,1962-1991 of TV performances, a British interview and his acceptance speech at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall
Fame. Additional film clips of him are included in the Legends of Jazz
Guitar I, II and III video series from Vestapol. New books of jazz photography in which he is included are Jazz Photographs of the
Jacques Lowe, Artisan Books, New York, 1995 and a photo documentary by
Esther Bubley, text by Hank O?Neal, of a 1950s Norman Granz recording session, titled Charlie Parker Jam Sessions, published in France by
Filipacchi, 1995. It includes hundreds of photographs of Kessel,
Parker, Oscar Peterson, Ben Webster and other giants of jazz laughing, talking and playing.
In 1994 Kessel was flown to Turin, Italy for a huge tribute concert
since there have been various benefit concerts in England,Germany and
Angeles honoring him. He was also a guest at Flip Phillips? 80th
jazz party in Florida in 1995. At the July 1995 memorial concert for
Records founder Carl Jefferson, Kessel walked out on stage (with a
the first time since his stroke and took a bow. In May of 1996, Kessel
flown to his home state and given an honorary doctoral degree by the University of Oklahoma for his lifetime contribution to music. For a gentleman who had only had formal schooling through the ninth grade,
was a well-deserved and meaningful honor. At George Wein?s JVC Jazz
in New York City, June 1997, Kessel was given a tribute concert by
up and coming and old guard of the guitar world. At this concert
walked on stage and spoke to an audience for the first time since his
stroke. The September 1997 issue of Just Jazz Guitar magazine was
entirely to Kessel, a collector?s item today. In October, 1998, Kessel celebrated his 75th birthday to accolades from around the world.
The well-known European jazz critic Joachim Ernst Berendt has summed
Kessel beautifully as "the most rhythmically vital guitarist in modern
Barney Kessel resides in San Diego, California with his wife, writer
Van Doren, senior editor of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine.
Fantasy Records just released a new CD of a live performance in 1960
Barney Kessel Quartet called Barney Kessel's Swingin' Party
The well-known European jazz critic Joachim Berendt has summed up
beautifully as "the most rhythmically vital guitarist in modern jazz".
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