Thursday, April 27, 2017

Barney Kessel Plays Bizet

Guitarist Kessel had a long career, and there are more than 40 CD's by him currently available. This one seems to me to be an unfairly overlooked gem. On this project, recorded in late December, 1958, Barney gives us 44 minutes of guitar-led swing, inspired by Bizet's opera. The operatic origins peek out now and then, the Spanish setting is not abandoned, but even those who dislike opera or who are simply unfamiliar with that form can love the CD for the warm and uptempo jazz experience it provides. Joining Barney are Buddy Collette on flute and clarinet, Bill Smith, also on clarinet, Andre Previn on piano, Shelly Manne on drums, Jules Jacob on oboe, Pete Terry on bassoon, Justin Gordon on flutes, Joe Mondragon on bass, Chuck Gentry on baritone sax, Herb Geller on alto sax, Harry Betts on trombone and Ray Linn on trumpet. Not all at once... the disc sounds more like quartet or quintet playing than the nine or ten artists who sometimes contribute to a song. Miles Davis did a famous record called "Sketches of Spain" with a big band backing his trumpet, but in a subtle way. That work has its good moments, but is so consistently melancholy that I don't really enjoy listening to it often. Kessel and his group have some passages of quiet beauty here, but overall, the project makes the listener cheerful instead of weepy, and therefore I think Modern Jazz Performances from Bizet's 'Carmen' is a better buy for jazz fans. The composer Bizet witnessed the failure of the first staging of "Carmen" in 1875, and died a few months later. As Vernon Duke's liner notes reveal, within three years his condemned work was a worldwide hit, and has stayed that way for more than a century. So, if you like Carmen or 1950's jazz, or jazz guitar from all eras, or just good music, consider [...] this one. It has slipped under the radar of even Kessel fans, and while not the tragedy that Bizet's death at age 37 was, it's a shame...
William E. Adams

Source :

Barney Kessel
Modern Jazz Performances
from Bizet's Carmen


1 Swingin' the Toreador ("Toreador's Song", Escamillo, Act. II "Votre toast
je peux vous le rendre.")  5:49
2 A Pad on the Edge of Town ("Seguidilla,", Carmen, Act I. "Près des remparts de Séville.")  6:43
3 If You Dig Me (Duet, Escamillo & Carmen, Act. IV. "Si tu m'aimes.")  4:02
4 Free as a Bird ("Habanera," Carmen, Act. I. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle.")  4:59
5 Viva el Toro ! ("Toreadors' March," Chorus, Act. IV. "Voici, débouchant sur la place,
voici d'abord, marchant au pas...")  3:14
6 Flowersville (Don José, Act. II. "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée.")  5:58
7 Carmen's Cool (Dance, Act. II.)  4:41
8 Like, There's No Place Like... (Duet, Don José & Micaela, Act. I. "Ma mère, je la vois !..
oui, je revois mon village !")  3:59
9 The Gypsy's Hip (Chorus, Act. II. "Les tringles des sistres tintaient.")  3:56

All Compositions by Georges Bizet

Music adapted by Barney Kessel from the score of "Carmen" by Georges Bizet.
All arrangements by Barney Kessel


The first group
Barney Kessel - g
Buddy Collette - fl, a fl & cl
Bill Smith - cl & b cl
Jules Jacob - ob & cl
Pete Terry - b cl & bassoon
Justin Gordon - fl & al fl
André Previn - p
Joe Mondragon - b
Shelly Manne - dr
The second group
Barney Kessel - g
Harry Betts - tb
Ray Linn - tp
Herb Geller - as
Justin Gordon - ts
Chuck Gentry - bar s
André Previn - p
Joe Mondragon - b
Shelly Manne - dr

Recorded at Contemporary Records Studio in Los Angeles ; December 19 & 22, 1958


Melanchthon said...

deGallo said...

Marvelous! Thank you.

Historicus said...

Great, thanks a lot!!!

Angelo said...

Muito obrigado!

PlantDoctor53 said...

Wow, I didn't have this one! Thank you, Mel!

Blue Eyes said...

One of my favorite albums, a pure gem! thank you very much St.Mel for this Japanese remaster, a must have!

P.S: the great Victor Feldman (vibraphone) is on tracks 3 & 7 too!

adakun said...

Muchas gracias Mel, hacia tiempo que lo conocia y ahora nos lo ofreces remasterizado en excelente calidad de sonido. Viva el Jazz!!

Kovina Kris said...

Very happy to upgrade this fine album from Barney!