Yesterday I received my copy of Barney Kessel: Rare Performances 1962-1991. Barney plays fabuluously good in the dozen songs or so on this DVD (including trio and solo performances and three tracks with The Great Guitars). I highly recommend this DVD, not just because of Barney’s generally excellent playing but also because of the fine booklet that comes with it.
On most of the tracks Barney is playing his modified ES-350, but there are three tracks from the end of the 1970s where he is playing an Ibanez lawsuit model, and it seems clear — to me at least — that there is a notable difference in the playing and the sound, Barney appearing to be less comfortable with the Ibanez.
My favorites are the early tracks, particularly “One Mint Julep” from 1962 which just rocks! In this connection, it is interesting to see how Barney’s style evolved, not necessarily (or always) to the better. While he certainly became more daring in his playing, it is also seems that he had difficulties cleanly executing the daring things he wanted to play. Barney may have been the one of the truly great jazz guitarist with the least developed single-string technique (and paradoxically one of those with the best technique for playing chords). The change in his playing seems to me to have taken place at the end of the 1960s, the Feeling Free CD marking a clear change.