Barney Kessel – To Swing or Not to Swing {Contemporary}[OJC]

Review by Scott Yanow (

Guitarist Barney Kessel’s string of recordings for Contemporary in the 1950s included some of the finest work of his career. The unusual repertoire on this set — which includes “Louisiana,” “Indiana,” and “12th Street Rag,” along with four Kessel originals and more usual standards — would by itself make this bop/cool set noteworthy. Add to that a very interesting lineup of players (trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, Georgie Auld or Bill Perkins on tenor, pianist Jimmy Rowles, the rhythm guitar of Al Hendrickson, bassist Red Mitchell, and Shelly Manne or Irv Cottler on drums) and some excellent showcases for Kessel, and the overall result is a CD highly recommended to fans of straight-ahead jazz.

01 – Begin the Blues
02 – Louisiana
03 – Happy Feeling
04 – Embraceable You
05 – Wail Street
06 – Indiana
07 – Moten Swing
08 – Midnight Sun
09 – Contemporary Blues
10 – Don’t Blame Me
11 – 12th Street Rag

Barney Kessel – guitar
Harry “Sweets” Edison – trumpet
Georgie Auld, Bill Perkins – tenor sax
Jimmy Rowles – piano
Al Hendrickson – rhythm guitar
Red Mitchell – bass
Irv Cottler, Shelly Manne – drums

Recorded in Los Angeles; March 28 and July 26, 1955.

Quality: eac, flac, cue, log, artwork