In 1960, a title like Barney Kessel's Swingin' Party at Contemporary must have sounded more like popular slang than a style of jazz. And indeed, the double meaning was intentional: this live effort was recorded at a swinging record label party at Contemporary and the music performed by guitarist Barney Kessel is definitely swing. Backed by pianist Marvin Jenkins, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Ron Lundberg, Kessel explores a half-dozen classic tunes. The band kicks off with a nine-minute romp called "Bluesology" before dipping into a lovely version of "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be)." Interestingly, on this latter tune Jenkins plays flute, adding a bit of delicacy to this gentle ballad. There's a relaxed, eight-minute take on Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time," with Kessel turning in an energetic solo filled with bent strings and blue notes. The band closes with a forceful version of Ahmad Jamal's "New Rhumba," with some animated percussion work by Lundberg. With one exception, all of the pieces run over six minutes, leaving plenty of room for the players to stretch their musical legs. Loose, open, and off the cuff, Barney Kessel's Swingin' Party at Contemporary finds Kessel and company in great form. For fans and guitar aficionados who missed the party, this swinging set will serve as a fine substitute.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.