A fantastic addition to the Barney Kessel catalog of the 50s – a never-heard live set that has the guitarist in form that's every bit as strong as his famous albums for Contemporary Records! In fact, the strength of the recording may well capture Kessel at a level that beats those sessions – as Barney's playing live, with a bit more bite – and really grabs us with the strong tone on his solos – and the sense of energy he gets in a quartet that also includes a young Pete Jolly on piano! The recording quality is excellent – crystal-clear, and very focused – and the set isn't one of those lost tapes that should have stayed "lost" – but instead a real lost chapter in Barney's tremendous career.
Hailing from a trio of Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) sessions, Django (1955) contains some of the earliest sides that Milt Jackson (vibraphone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) recorded for Prestige Records. Initially, the combo was part of Dizzy Gillespie's influential backing band and after a change in drummers (to Connie Kay), they continued as one of the more sophisticated aggregates of the post-bop era. The album commences with Lewis' sublime and serene title track "Django," dedicated to the memory of guitarist extraordinaire Django Reinhardt. This musical paean aptly recaptures the essence of Reinhardt's enigmatic gypsy-like nature, especially evident within Jackson's leads, which emerge from the thoughtful opening dirge with a refined, warm tone throughout.