Budding jazz guitarists should take a good listen to Barney Kessel and notice not just the fluency of his playing but just how well he fits into the ensemble. He blends so easily from his own solos into the background behind others that he seems almost invisible - too many of today's guitar players overwhelm procedings with their sound.
The four CDs can still be picked up but you'd struggle to get them this cheap individually, let alone as a package. The one absent track...? Once you realise just how much music you get for under a fiver, you'll forgive Avid for not spreading it over 3 CDs to fit the extra track in.
The only downside (at least with my copy)is with the liner notes. Having purchased several others in the Avid series (Clifford Brown, Milt Jackson, Chico Hamilton) I'd gotten used to the reproduction of the back covers as part of the package. The notes to the Kessel release are sparse and, being an annoying muso, I was irked at this... but then I played the first CD and all was forgiven. The tracks are clearly listed and the personnel is all set out (in very tiny print), so I don't have much cause to complain.
So...for under a  you get four albums worth of some of the best music Barney Kessel ever recorded. If you want the full liner notes to the original releases and the extra missing track, then spend a whole lot more on the individual CDs. Buy it now.
There's only one track missing from this compilation, which is excusable, given that both CDs run to over 79 minutes. The albums in question, which date from the mid-fifties, are "Easy Like" (on which Bud Shank plays flute and alto), "BK Plays Standards" (featuring Bob Cooper on oboe), "To Swing Or Not To Swing" (including Harry "Sweets" Edison, Georgie Auld, Jimmy Rowles, Al Hendrickson, and Shelley Manne, but minus "Twelfth Street Rag"), and "Music To Listen To BK By". The influence of Charlie Christian on Kessel's playing is in evidence throughout, and I've thoroughly enjoyed this compilation of cool bop-influenced West Coast jazz.
Barney Kessel was one of the greatest jazz guitar players to ever be recorded and this compilation of his first four albums showcases his talent. From the first track you can feel his natural swing which gave him such a relaxed and effortless style. He is equally at home as a soloist or simply supporting others with a gentle rhythm and laying the chordal basis for their playing. As an illustration of his abilities this collection is a terrific showcase of his work.
I believe that this was one of the earliest Avid double album releases and sets the standard musically for the many that have followed. However the accompanying leaflet is not as detailed regarding sleeve notes although personnel is given, although a magnifying glass is a useful aid. The four albums are from the period 1953 - 1956 and Kessell, a fine guitarist in any company, finds himself with an assortment of well known musicians including Bud Shank, Shelly Manne, Hampton Hawes, Red Mitchell, Sweets Edison, Andre Previn, Jimmy Rowles and Buddy Colette and others. Great music and excellent sound quality, and better still GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY!
Every jazz lover should buy this cd. Four LP's on two cd's with fine jazz. Barney Kessel is not very well known among jazz lovers and that's a shame because his playing is interesting and hearing it gives a great pleasure. In my opinion it sets standards for jazz guitar playing. Buy this one and I can ashore you that you'l never regret it.
An excellent compilation of some of the best of Barney Kessel. I bought the original album "Barney Kessel Plays Standards" somewhere around the mid 'fifties and this CD certainly bought back many memories. Most tracks are as fresh and inspiring now as the day they were laid down. Beautiful swinging guitar and superb harmonies.