Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meeting Barney Kessel

Barney Kessel 1986
Back in 1986 Maurice Summerfield ( and Ashley Mark Publishing) arranged a seminar to take place in Newcastle in the late autumn at which Barney Kessel would be the visiting celebrity guitarist. As a Barney fan, I signed up immediately. Later on in the year, two friends and myself decided to visit a jazz concert being held at a small country pub just outside of Grimsby on the East coast. When we drew up in the car park we could hear strains of an amplified guitar coming from the pub. When we got inside there were only about 20 people, both locals and some holiday visitors. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the guitar player was none other than Barney Kessel. He was in full flight playing his arrangement of "Brazil". I was dumbfounded -I sat about six feet away from him and was mesmerised. I managed to speak to him in the intermission and told him I had booked the seminar and would see him in about three weeks. He asked me various questions about how long I had been playing etc. when he took a quick non alcoholic drink at the back before the last set, which was about an hour. I spoke to him again at the end of the evening and asked him why he was playing in such a small place in the middle of nowhere. He turned to me, smiled and said "Why not?" Mmmm .... it couldn't have been for the money. The seminar was a great four days, with Barney teaching one on one, group playing, just great. Barney proved to be a nice, educated man who was at ease when talking, playing, and explaining. I never saw him again and was mortified when he died in 2004. Sadly missed Barney!

Peter Smart


  1. Hi Dick I had the pleasure of meeting Barney at the 1989 Moncton Jazz festival in Canada
    We sat and talked guitar for an hour. I asked how many guitars he owned and he said this it
    When he asked about my guitar and I told him it was a Gibson Barney Kessel he said I can't afford one of those. I had the great honor to jam with him the next afternnoon at a local club
    Jamie Colpitts Canada

  2. Barney's burnin' on Jordu. I love these Pollwinners albums.

  3. Barney was my mentor in the late 60s, educated me in the ways of the jazz life, very intelligent, deep man, great player, seeker of wisdom.

  4. Barney did a lot of those seminars in Newcastle over the years from the early 70s on. I attended in '76 and it was a great experience. He was a very nice man with some fascinating ideas on approaching music and the guitar and careers and everything. And it didn't matter to him if you weren't a great player. I was basically an average rock player who was trying to unlock the secrets of jazz playing. Just hearing him play fairly informally you could hear the years of top line experience combined with that impeccable blues-tinged feel.