Saturday, May 08, 2004

JAZZOBIT: The death has been announced of Barney Kessel, the jazz guitarist. He died Thursday in San Diego, aged 80, from brain cancer. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1923, Kessel started his career at te age of 14, playing in an otherwise all-black dance band. His career lead him to working with many legendary names, including a spell in a band fronted by Chico Marx. More conventionally, he toured with bands lead by Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet and Bennt Goodman and played alongside Presley, Ricky Nelson and many more. Even if you don’t know his name, you’ll have heard his work: on Elvis’ Return To Sender, The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and right across Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. A favourite amongst the Beatles, George Harrison described Kessel as "the best guitarist in this world, or any other world."

Barney hadn't been able to work since a series of strokes twelve years ago, but had continued to have music at the heart of his life. His wife, Phylis VanDoren, reported that he had been listening to music throughout his last day, and had his own work - 'Barney Kessel Plays For Lovers' had been playing at the time of his death: "The last breath he took was in time with the last chord of the last song on that record. The song was 'I'm Through With Love,' which is not an inappropriate title. It was such a beautiful ending."

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