Barney Kessel

Blues for a Playboy

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The promotional blurb on the back of this CD claims that Barney Kessel was equally influential in jazz and rock circles. While definitely one of the top jazz guitarists and a well-liked studio session player, it's a big stretch to say he was an idol of rockers, even though he was a sideman on some influential pop/rock LPs in the '60s. This compilation features 16 jazz standards, mostly played in ballad form, which was not generally his forté. The bop sounds he did employ make way for the cool sound that was also prevalent on the West Coast. His renderings of "Tenderly," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Midnight Sun," "Indian Summer," "Laura," and "'Round Midnight" are indeed precious, but aren't a full representation of what he was all about. There are four supplemental cuts to finish the CD off, featuring appearances by Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Lester Young, and Anita O'Day that are good, but incongruous with the rest of the collection. Far from essential Kessel, this CD is at best a curious production.

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