Barney Kessel was born on October 17, 1923 in Muskogee, Oklahoma and began his career as a teenager touring with local dance bands. When he was 16, he started playing with the Oklahoma A & M band, Hal Price & the Varsitonians. It was here that his band mates lovingly nicknamed him “Fruitcake” because he would practice up to 16 hours a day.
Moving on to bands such as that led by Chico Marx, he quickly established himself as a key post-Charlie Christian jazz guitarist. In 1944 he participated in the film Jammin’ the Blues that featured Lester Young, and by 1947 he was recording with Charlie Parker’s New Stars on the Relaxin’ at Camarillo session for Dial Records.
Known for his innovative work in the guitar trio setting, in the 1950s, he made a series of albums called The Poll Winners with Ray Brown on bass and drummer Shelly Manne. He was also the guitarist on the 1955 Julie London album Julie Is Her Name, which includes the million-selling standard Cry Me a River and features a guitar part from Kessel which illustrates his melodic chordal approach in a minimal jazz group. During the 1950s he released three Kessel Plays Standards volumes containing some of his most polished work.
Barney was a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio with Brown for a year, leaving in 1953 and turning the chair over to Herb Ellis. He went on to play with Sonny Rollins in the late 1950s and recorded the Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders album. A first call guitarist at Columbia Pictures during the 1960s, he became one of the most in-demand session guitarists in America, and is considered a key member of the group of first-call session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. In this capacity he played outside the jazz genre on hundreds of pop recordings, including albums and singles by Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and many others.
He appeared in an acting part playing a jazz guitarist named “Barney” in one episode of the Perry Mason TV show. He wrote and arranged the source music for the jazz combo, including a jazz version of Here Comes the Bride that was featured in the story. He played Mr. Spock’s theme on bass, which first appeared in the Star Trek episode Amok Time.
During the 1970s, Kessel put on his educator hat and presented his seminar The Effective Guitarist in various locations around the world. During this decade he performed extensively with Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd as The Great Guitars.
Guitarist Barney Kessel was rated the No. 1 guitarist in Esquire, DownBeat, and Playboy magazine polls between 1947 and 1960. In 1961 The Gibson Guitar Corporation introduced The Barney Kessel model guitar onto the market and continued to make them until 1973. Having been in poor health after suffering a stroke in 1992, he passed away of a brain tumor at his home in San Diego, California on May 6, 2004 at the age of 80.
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Carmen Mastren was born Carmine Mastrandrea on October 6, 1913 in Cohoes, New York. By 1934 he was playing professionally as a musician when he joined the Wingy Manone and Joe Marsala band. Mastren worked with a variety of musicians during his career, including Raymond Scott, Ray McKinley and Mel Powell.
In the 1940s Mastren recorded with the Sidney Bechet and the Muggsy Spanier “Big Four”. During World War II he played with the Glenn Miller Air Force Band. It was during this period that he worked as musical director and conductor for Morton Downey, and from 1954–1970 he played for The Today Show, The Tonight Show and Say When!! on the NBC television network.
Recording as a sideman, Carmen worked with Dick Hyman And His Orchestra, Bobby Hackett, Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Bud Freeman and the Wolverine Orchestra on such labels as Mercury, Decca, Atlantic, Epic, Universal/MCA, Victor, RCA, Allegro Elite and Gennett.
Guitarist, banjoist and violinist Carmen Mastren passed away at age 68 from a heart attack on March 31, 1981 at his home in Valley Stream on Long Island, New York. He is best remembered for his work from 1936–1941 with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra as a guitarist.
Dennis Sandole was born Dionigi Sandoli on September 29, 1913 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He played guitar as a child was John Coltrane’s mentor from 1946 until the early 1950s, introducing him to theory beyond chords and scales and exposing him to the music of other cultures.
Sandole taught advanced harmonic techniques that were applicable to any instrument, using exotic scales and creating his own. His students over half a century included saxophonists James Moody, Michael Brecker, Rob Brown, and Bobby Zankel; pianists Matthew Shipp and Sumi Tonooka; guitarists Jim Hall, Joe Diorio, Pat Martino, Joe Federico, Tony DeCaprio, Jon Herington, Larry Hoffman, and Harry Leahey, Rufus Harley, Bob deVos and Frank Gerrard.
He recorded with his brother Adolph, Modern Music From Philadelphia, released by Fantasy in 1956. Guitarist, composer and music educator Dennis Sandole, who taught privately until the end of his life, passed away on September 30, 2000.
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Joe Deniz was born José William Deniz on September 10, 1913 in Butetown, Cardiff, Wales to a Black American mother and a Cape Verdean father. He learned the ukulele first, before upgrading to the fuller fretboard and along with his two brothers they all made their mark on the UK jazz dance scene. He started playing on the docks in Butetown, now known as Tiger Bay, where he played impromptu calypsos for the sailors for small change. As his skill increased so he would join other vagrant musicians traveling through the ethnic centers of Cardiff, playing engagements at houses in exchange for drinks. Eventually a nucleus of black musicians came together with Victor Parker, George Glossop and Don Johnson, finding work in Soho clubs.
After a brief sojourn to his home town, Deniz returned as drummer at the Nest, an after hours London club visited by Afro-Caribbean musicians and where he met Fats Waller and his idol, Django Reinhardt. He went on to join Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson’s Black Orchestra as his guitarist, remaining until 1941 when Johnson was killed in a Café De Paris bombing. He was injured at the time and had lifelong discomfort in his leg from shrapnel. He found session work with many top-flight band leaders, as well as violinist Stéphane Grappelli. His personal fame also rose via solos with Harry Parry’s Radio Rhythm Club Sextet.
Turning away from jazz, he joined his brothers in the Latin-styled Hermanos Deniz, before joining the West End run of Ipi Tombi, a South African musical which featured his duets with his brother Frank. He retired from music in 1980, contenting himself with his memories, passion for DIY and running a successful business. Guitarist and drummer Joe Deniz, never recorded as a leader but as a member of the Hermanos Deniz group, passed away April 24, 1994.
Lauderic Rex Caton was born on August 31, 1910 in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, the fourth son and last among the eight children of Robert Caton, who was of Saint Lucian descent, and Margaret Caton. An autodidact on guitar, he was also proficient on saxophone, double bass, and banjo, and began playing professionally at the age of 17.
After spending time in Guadeloupe and Martinique, he moved to Europe in 1938, playing in Paris with Martinican musician Oscar Alemán. He then moved to Brussels and played with Ram Ramirez, Jean Omer, Harry Pohl, and Jamaican Joe Smith. While in Antwerp, Caton played with Gus Clark and Tommy Brookins.
Influenced by Lonnie Johnson and Charlie Christian, he began amplifying his guitar in 1940. Lauderic played in England with Don Marino Barreto and during his tenure met and befriended saxophonist Louis Stephenson, who became a frequent collaborator. He led a house band at Jig’s Club working with Cyril Blake, Johnny Claes, Bertie King, Harry Parry, Dick Katz, and Coleridge Goode. By the 1940s he played with Ray Ellington and Ray Nance, playing under the pseudonym Lawrence Rix for legal reasons.
Guitarist Lauderic Caton went on to teach and build custom amplifiers. He passed away in London, England on February 19, 1999 at age 88 and was interred in Port Of Spain, Trinidad.
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