Barney KESSEL – Barney Kessel Plays Carmen 1958

Barney KESSEL – Barney Kessel Plays Carmen 1958
Modern Jazz Performances from Bizet’s Carmen
1986 Issue.


This is an unusual set that has been reissued on CD. During an era when many Broadway and movie scores were recorded in jazz settings (thanks in part to the success of Shelly Manne’s best-selling My Fair Lady album), guitarist Barney Kessel chose to interpret nine melodies from Bizet’s opera Carmen. The guitarist is heard in three different settings: joined by five woodwinds and a rhythm section; with five jazz horns (including altoist Herb Geller and trumpeter Ray Linn) and a trio; and with vibraphonist Victor Feldman in a quintet. Kessel also wrote the arrangements, which pay tribute to the melodies while not being shy of swinging the themes.
An interesting if not essential project.
By Scott Yanow, All Music Guide.
(It is damn essential  Mr. Yanow….If not… my …
By themonk.
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 buying 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.
By William E.Adams.
Barney Kessel- (Guitar);
Herb Geller- (Alto Sax);
Justin Gordon- (Tenor Sax, Flute, Alto Flute);
Chuck Gentry- (Baritone Sax);
Ray Linn- (Trumpet);
Harry Betts- (Trombone);
Buddy Collette- (Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet);
Bill Smith- (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet);
Jules Jacob- (Clarinet, Oboe);
Pete Terry- (Bass Clarinet, Bassoon);
Victor Feldman- (Vibraphone);
Andre Previn- (Piano);
Joe Mondragon- (Bass);
Shelly Manne- (Drums).
01. Swingin’ The Toreador (5:51)
02. A Pad On The Edge Of Town (6:46)
03. If You Dig Me (4:03)
04. Free As A bird (5:00)
05. Viva El Toro! (3:15)
06. Flowersville (5:59)
07. Carmen’s Cool (4:42)
08. Like, There’s No Place Like… (3:58)
09. The Gypsy’s Hip (3:56)

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