Barney Kessel on "Jammin' the Blues" (1944)

"Jammin' the Blues" means a lot to me, personally. It brings together Lindy Hop and a unique focus on the musicians who create the music. It was one of the first selections picked to be in the Campus Five's repitoire, and it has closed almost every Campus Five for the last ten years. Some of my proudest and most special moments on stage have been while playing this song. Suffice it to say, I love this film and song.

Shot by famed Life Magazine Photographer Gjon Mili, "Jammin' the Blues" is notable for its inventive look and visual effects, and it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject. 

But of course, as pretty and striking as it is, "Jammin'" is about the music. It starts off with a jammed slow blues, and segues into a vocal on "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Both are beautiful. However, once the drum solo begins, it gets real. [Side note: Big Sid Catlett is shown playing the first part of the movie, and then he ever so smoothly trades the kit over to Jo Jones - but the audio was recorded seperately first, and so the audio is actually of Jo then trading to Sid] The heavyweights on the session are amazing: Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet (looking downright possessed!), Sweets Edison, Barney Kessel, and of course Jo and Sid. 

Barney Kessel was one of the first to pick up on Charlie Christian's revolutionary approach to electric guitar. His early 40's playing is fantastic, though his bop-influenced stuff later on is what everyone else seems to focus on. Kessel has a couple good solos recorded during his stint with Artie Shaw's big band and small group, the Grammercy Five. "Hop Skip and Jump" and "Bedford Drive" are two Shaw tunes with Kessel solos. 

For a white kid from Oklahoma, it's notable that Barney was included among the all-stars in "Jammin'", especially considering they were all-black. Given the backwards-ass racial climate of the times, Barney was only shown in shadow, and apparently his hands were stained with grape juice for the shoot, so he'd look darker. 

I've been half-heartedly trying to learn Barney's "Jammin'" solo for more than 10 years now. I say "half-heartedly" because I just never sat down to do it right - meaning with something to slow down the audio, and something to notate what I figure out. Well, 10 years got shortened to about 60 minutes tonight, and I finally got it. Since notating the solo was part of what helped me transcribe it (and hear it played back so I could check my work), I figure I could just as easily share it here. 

Barney Kessel's solo on "Jammin' the Blues" (1944) - PDF

Here's the tab version:

Barney Kessel's solo on "Jammin' the Blues" (1944) - TAB - PDF

Here's the video - the solo starts at 1:17: