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George Barnes

• George Barnes Quartet

This is a swingin, smokin live show from Concord, CA in 1977. It's the last recording one of the most accomplished and distinctive jazz guitarists ever. His playing is so precise and yet so loose, and the tone is so beautifully round. The melodic ideas roll out of the master's hands so effortlessly, it's mindblowing. Flurries of seven and eight note arpeggios erupt between chords just to connect two lines of the melody. The East Bay crowd of his new hometown were getting treated to great jazz at this time, since a local entrepreneur and jazz aficionado named Carl Jefferson started the Concord Jazz Festival and the Concord Jazz label.

This show is George's new quartet of the time, including the great San Franciscan on guitar, Duncan James. (Sometimes it's hard to tell who's soloing when, but after one of the best on the record, in "Moonglow," George acknowledges his partner.) The rhythm section is ripping it to shreds on every cut, Dean Reilly on upright and Benny Barth on skins.

The band is having so much fun--George says at the end "I want you to know it's absolutely beautiful to be playing for you, just a gas…" It's more than poignant when the listener all these years later knows he died suddenly of a heart attack just a short time after.

George Barnes is also well known for the five records he made with cornetist Ruby Braff, as the Braff/Barnes quartet, including a Rodgers & Hart tribute with Tony Bennett. The other legendary duos he was in were with Carl Cress and Bucky Pizzarelli. Along with a very distinguished jazz career, he also played tons of pop sessions, including all the Sam Cooke records and "Lonely Teardrops" with Mr. Excitement himself, Jackie Wilson!

The cat was a pioneer. His brother allegedly made a pickup and an amplifier for him in 1931 (!), so he had to have been one of the very first guys to ever play electric guitar. We're so lucky that Larry Cumings was on hand to capture the historic event on his 1/4" Sony reel tape machine, and also that David Grisman and Craig Miller make it available on Acoustic Disc. Recordist Cumings says of the date: "In thirty plus years of mixing live sound I do not remember taping a show that contained the magic of this concert. I am very happy to have preserved this moment in time." • FG

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