Barney Kessel was one of jazz guitar’s most illustrious pioneers. His career spanned the gamut of back-in-the-day showbiz highlighted with stints in Chico Marx’s band, Oscar Peterson’s trio, and his own early trio that also feature bassist Ray Brown and Shelly Manne on drums. A prolific session player, he was also a member of The Wrecking Crew. This album, Yesterday, while maybe not his most accessible or highest rated is a disc I like a lot and have played repeatedly over the years. It is a live offering from Barney’s 1973 appearance at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival and over the course of 8 songs with different musicians sitting in it demonstrates Barney’s complete mastery of the jazz/pop form and his instrument of choice…the guitar!! Of course!
He plays two unaccompanied pieces, an original In the Garden of Love and a cover of The Beatles Yesterday. It is on these two songs, plus the unaccompanied introduction to Johnny Mercer’s Laura that Kessel’s brilliance really shines through. His command of chords and inversions mixed with melodic lines and runs is in a league all it’s own. I really love his version of Yesterday…way cool, very dramatic. He also does great versions of It’s a Blue World Summertime, the very rowdy Old Devil Moon and an original Bridging the Blues before being joined by the one and only Stephane Grappelli for a rousing finale of Tea for Two. Even though Barney was no longer a youngster when this album was recorded, the performances and wild enthusiastic response from the audience prove that he had reached a level of maturity that was heavy enough to move people with great ballad playing and still ballsy enough to drive through up tempo swing and blues tunes. There is great audience response to this performance, which I believe took place in early July. That Barney and his band were able to drive the Montreaux audience sweaty is not surprising given the energy level on the disc. I recommend!