Barney Kessel: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Kessel reinterprets Mancini’s film soundtrack

Those seeking Barney Kessel’s legendary jazz stylings should look elsewhere. As a guitarist in the ‘50s, Kessel was renowned for his cool, bop-inspired playing in small quartets on sessions with the Contemporary label. But in the early ‘60s he signed with Reprise and embarked on a series of pop records. This was hardly new territory for Kessel, as he’d been backing pop musicians for years, and was a first-call guitarist for pop titans like Phil Spector; but as a front-man, this was a break from the jazz sessions he’d previously led. On his debut for Reprise, Kessel reinterpreted Henry Mancini’s soundtrack for Breakfast at Tiffany’s with a septet that included the superb playing of Paul Horn on saxophone and flute. This is a fair distance from the harder jazz Kessel had been recording, but not nearly as out-and-out pop as his next album, Bossa Nova. Here he leans on the jazz roots of Mancini’s compositions and swings some original solos on “The Big Blow Out” and “Loose Caboose.” Surprisingly, the soundtrack’s centerpiece, “Moon River,” is rendered pedestrian here, as if Kessel couldn’t find anything new to say with it. This album is likely to disappoint those seeking hard-bop, in line with the guitarist’s earlier works, but if you seek a variation on the original soundtrack, this is worth hearing. This album is also available on CD as a 3-fer with Bossa Nova and Contemporary Latin Rhythms. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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