Barney Kessel — tone, time, and he’s really cooking: Homage to the Poll Winners



One of the reasons I still have a turntable are to listen to my old Poll Winners records (Contemporary is the label) from the late 1950s/early 1960s featuring Barney Kessel on guitar, Ray Brown on bass and Shelly Manne on drums.

These records were my mom’s (yes, I listen to the same music as my mother … feel free to mock me), and they’ve always defined the West Coast jazz sound for me.

And along with a select few others (Herb Ellis and Joe Pass come to mind), Barney Kessel really says “West Coast jazz guitar,” to me.

This is the kind of jazz that anybody can get behind. Barney’s sound is so great, his time is wonderful, and he just plays the hell out of his guitar.

That these wonderful guys (Kessel, Brown and Manne) made so many great records that really hold up so well is a major gift to those of us who love jazz and just plain good music.