Barney Kessel with Shelly Manne & Ray Brown

The Poll Winners

Kessel, bassist Brown, and drummer Manne – pillars of West Coast jazz – had already topped reader polls in Playboy and two jazz publications before teaming for this 1957 collaboration. Using the rarely-employed guitar-trio format proved so successful they recorded three follow-up LPs and a 1975 reunion album. This remastered, audiophile-quality vinyl reissue adds a new dimension to this beloved collection.

Having played together in various combinations, Kessel, Manne, and Brown seemed liberated by the lineup’s sheer simplicity. Kessel’s inventive soloing remains a marvel of execution and flawless swing. He moves from a warm, chordal lead-in to Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll,” to unfurl fleet single-string lines exploring unique harmonic dimensions. All three savor their roaring, hell-for-leather romp through the 1920’s jazz ditty “Nagasaki.”

Brown and Manne weren’t shy about adding their distinct statements, as on “Jordu.” Kessel’s jaunty take on “Mean to Me,” often performed in ballad mode, allows him to peel off shimmering chord melodies. As Brown and Manne create their own moments, Kessel adds witty embellishments. His exquisite take on the ballad “You Go to My Head,” with the rhythm section adding interludes has – like everything else on this 65-year-old classic – only improved with time.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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