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Bruce Forman Reflects On His Time With Barney Kessel



Guitarist Bruce Forman shares his thoughts on his friend and mentor, Barney Kessel.

Bruce Forman: On the occasion of his 100th birthday, I am filled with amazement and gratitude for Barney Kessel. An innovator, inspiration, mentor, and friend, I am so lucky to have had him in my life. Now, playing the guitar he played for most of his career, I am reminded daily of his contribution to jazz guitar. 

He defined the possibilities for jazz guitar today. From its rich harmonic palette to melodic lines that could go from sweet and subtle to fiery and explosive in the same bar! He arranged as he played, motifs and textures that were eloquently placed to keep context. It wasn’t just music, it was storytelling!

I am also grateful that he offered me the opportunity to play and tour with him. While he was a man who cared about the music first and was encouraging and supportive…he could be very demanding and difficult. In short, he didn’t suffer fools…nor should he have! He was also extremely competitive…and from all those ass-kickings I received, I am proud to say that I had him on the ropes more than once. But through it all, he was mostly challenging himself, and as I said: it was always about the music first.

It is my sincerest hope that people will still be talking about him one hundred years from now…he deserves it…thanks Barney!

Guitarist Bruce Forman

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