Barney Kessel Chord Melody & Chord Solo: Satin Doll

Barney Kessel: The Poll Winners

Barney Kessel: The Poll Winners

For about a year I had Barney Kessel’s album “The Poll Winners” stuck in my Volkswagen Rabbit’s auto-reverse cassette deck (circa 1987). I couldn’t get it out and the knobs didn’t work either, so I was forced to listen to this cassette tape every time I drove my car. As the year progressed I was able to sing just about every note of the album. More time passed, as did my enjoyment of this recording, and I ended up ripping out the cassette deck and throwing it out the window. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic recording of the era (1956). A jazz classic filled with Barney’s horn-like bebop lines and rhythmic maturity, Ray Brown’s equally melodic and technical playing and Shelly Manne’s easy swing feel. This is an important recording for jazz guitar!
I believe there is value in learning to sing a solo. Pick a solo you like, listen to it enough so you can sing it with out ever picking up your instrument. When you have it in your head, pick up your instrument and try to play the solo. This enforces the connection from your head to your hands. This is what Jazz is all about. This connection is why improvisation is art! Once in a while, when I listen to recordings of myself playing, I will hear a little Barney Kessel creep in. I attribute this to my year long study of his playing on this recording. Those ill feelings that made me rip out the tape deck have now been replaced with nostalgia, warmth and familiarity. I can still sing all the solos.

The Raw Material

Head Arrangement of Satin Doll:

Satin Doll Head Arrangement page 1

Satin Doll Head Arrangement page 1

Satin Doll Head Arrangement page 2

Satin Doll Head Arrangement page 2

Barney Kessel Chord Solo on Satin Doll
Solo starts around 4:17

Satin Doll chord Solo page1

Satin Doll chord Solo page1

Satin Doll chord Solo page2

Satin Doll chord Solo page2

Satin Doll chord Solo page3

Satin Doll chord Solo page3


Note on the chord solo

I really don’t have much to say about this. Barney uses fairly standard chords and double stops. The amazing thing is how he puts it all together. Reminds me of a big band shout chorus. Lots of anticipation and delayed resolutions here. Anticipation is when you play the next measure’s chord just before you reach that measure. Delay is the opposite, you stay on the current chord into the new measure and somewhere in the measure, you change. (Kind of a lame explanation, but I think you get the drift.)
Bars 7-8: A descending diminished chord. This is classic Barney Kessel. The written chord is GMajor7. I think this entire descending diminished line is outlining a E7(b9), which is resolved into the Amin7 of bar 9.

MP3 Play-along

I put together a background track you can play along with. Once you have learned the head and solo, try to play 8 bars of your own solo, then 8 bars of Barney’s solo. Try 4 bars then 4 bars. This is a great way to get some of his vocabulary into your own playing. NOTE: the MP3 starts with 8 bars of intro.

satin doll backing track.mp3

Essential Barney Kessel Recordings

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14 Responses to Barney Kessel Chord Melody & Chord Solo: Satin Doll

  1. mark says:

    Thank you so much for this site! This sort of thing is so hard to find!

  2. Simon says:

    Excellent transcription and explanation, thank you for making this available!

  3. tristan says:

    you are amazing , merci beaucoup !

  4. John Strickler says:

    Thank you very much for providing this material, I have been transcribing the single lines of “Satin Doll” and this helps so much. Barney’s playing is an aquired taste, but once you delve into it you find a wealth of musical phrases that are gold. The “Poll Winners” albums are fantastic! Appreciate your providing this site.

  5. Tom says:

    Thanks for the Satin Doll transcription! Love Barny’s playing. How ’bout some more?? :)

  6. vincent parrella says:

    This is the best site out there,for any one who has been looking on the net for a long time,I finally found the best resource for my guitar endeavor,thank you with all my heart.

  7. Michael says:

    Thank you soooo much! This has been one of my favorite Jazz albums of all time! What a trio! Please post more, as I am finishing the solo transcriptions for the rest of the album. Thx again

    • admin says:

      Hi Michael. You are most welcome. I love this album too! Will perhaps get some more posted in the future. Cheers. R.

  8. Lohengrin says:

    Awesome transcription! I can’t describe how much does this helps me learning in the jazz conservatory… thank you very much for your work! :)

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