Monday, January 12, 2015

Barney Kessel - Contemporary Latin Rhythms

These three Barney Kessel albums, recorded for Reprise in the early 1960s, are true gems. Reprise dabbled in recording jazz artists during this time and these Kessel albums truly shine. I remember finding the Kessel "Breakfast At Tiffany's" on vinyl about 10 years ago and listening to it was a dream come true. I am so glad it is here on CD along with more of Kessel's work during that period. "Breakfast At Tiffany's" has a slight jazz flair. True, that Kessel did not choose to make it a hard core jazz album and we should be thankful for his decision. Instead, he plays it with sophistication and style, adding his signature jazz touches where they add depth to the score but never overdoing it. I highly recommend this collection. - by Johnny K,

What better way to start this review than with the following sentence: Contemporary Latin Rhythms by guitarist Barney Kessel (1923–2004), released in 1963, is one of the best Latin albums ever created… because it is actually an Exotica release! I cannot stress this assertion enough, as it is not overly well-known in these circles. Twelve musicians deliver ten different, presumably Latin cuts, but again, the prospect evoked by this album is not necessarily fulfilled. One Latin fan's flaw is an Exotica lover's advantage. Or as Stanley Wilson of Pagan Love (1961) fame fittingly states in the liner notes: "Latin music has moved much closer to our own." Thus, the presented material is surprisingly exotic and less about Latin clichés than you might imagine. Even perfectly normal North American tunes are featured here, and they are admittedly Latinized quite a bit. Their real driving factor, though, is and remains Exotica, I kid you not. Contemporary Latin Rhythms is roughly comparable to the already splendidly exotic and dreamy Gone Native (1957) by the New York Jazz Quartet, but even that album is more Latin than Kessel's artifact. Six renditions and four unique tracks by Barney Kessel made it to the green-tinged album. While Kessel is prominently featured with his guitar on all of the tracks, he lets each player shine nonetheless, holding back every so often in order to let the aqueous mallet instruments and silky brass sections unfold all the better. The album features drummer Stan Levey, bassist Keith Mitchell, guitarists Bill Pitman, Alton Hendrickson and Barney Kessel himself, a trio of percussionists comprising of Francisco Aguabelle, Edward Talamantes and Franck Capp, saxophonist and flutist Paul Horn, trumpeter Conte Candoli, the dedicated marimba player Emil Richards as well as vibraphonist Victor Feldman. The album is unexpectedly bright and coruscating, and only one out of ten tracks delivers a whimsical lamento that is so typical for Latin songs. Sambas are as present as delicately downbeat Exotica pieces. So without further ado, here is one of the lost Exotica classics which has much more in common with my favorite genre than with the usual Latin outings. -

Artist: Barney Kessel
Album: Contemporary Latin Rhythms
Year: 1963
Label: Reprise (Japanese 24-bit dig. remestered, 2014)
Runtime: 30:46

1.  Blues In The Night (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) 2:39
2.  Days Of Wine And Roses (Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini) 2:30
3.  Latin Dance N°1 (Barney Kessel) 2:32
4.  Lady Byrd (Tadd Dameron) 3:30
5.  One Note Samba (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Jon Hendricks/Newton Mendonça) 4:15
6.  The Peanut Vendor (Marion Sunshine/Moises Simons/Wolfe Gilbert) 3:10
7.  Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Joe Davis/Osvaldo Farrés) 3:13
8.  Everytime I Hear This Song (Barney Kessel) 3:47
9.  Love (Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane) 2:47
10.  Twilight In Acapulco (Barney Kessel) 2:23

Barney Kessel (Guitar)
Red Mitchell (Bass)
Stan Levey (Drums)
Paul Horn (Saxophone, Flute)
Conte Candoli (Trumpet)
Victor Feldman (Vibraphone)
Al Hendrickson (Guitar)
Bill Pitman (Guitar)
Emil Richards (Marimba)
Eddie Talamantes (Percussion)
Francisco Aguabella (Percussion)
Frank Capp (Percussion)



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