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Feeling Free by Barney Kessel

It’s a telling sign to note that by the end of the ‘60s many of the small independent labels that had played such a large part in the documentation of mainstream jazz were on the decline. Riverside was gone at this point. Blue Note and Impulse were being demoralized by commercial concessions. And if was this bad on the East Coast, one can only imagine the profound impact being felt on the West Coast. Still, Lester Koenig’s Contemporary label was making the most out of a changing scene by releasing viable product from the likes of Shelly Manne, Phineas Newborn, Jr., and Barney Kessel. The latter’s FEELING FREE happens to be a curious piece that proves to be significant in many ways.. First of all, it presents Kessel in an extremely lucid and incendiary light. Secondly, it serves as a valuable addition to the catalogs of vibist Bobby Hutcherson and drummer Elvin Jones.

Four of the six cuts here come from Kessel’s pen, with Bacharach’s "This Guy’s in Love With You" and Paul Simon’s "The Sounds of Silence" taking on new lives that elevate them beyond their limited pop stature. Jones fits in so well with this unit that one would never guess this was a one-shot affair. Koenig’s engineering also spotlights Jones’ sound, picking up all the subtle nuances. Hutcherson and Kessel mesh beautifully, both in delivering the heads and supporting each other as soloists.

Too long unavailable, FEELING FREE ranks among the best records that Contemporary ever released and it’s also one hell of a Kessel album. Guitarists rejoice!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Barney Kessel
  • CD Title: Feeling Free
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Reissue Original Release: 1969
  • Record Label: Contemporary/OJC
  • Musicians: Barney Kessel (guitar), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Chuck Domanico (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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