GEORGE BARNES AND HIS OCTET, Love Is Just Around The Corner, 1957Posted: November 4, 2010
Of the four songs on this EP, published by the German Manhattan label, a jazz subsidiary of Ariola, Love Is Just Around The Corner really sticks out. The guitar sound sets it apart from the other, more average swing tunes. When I first heard this song, I didn´t know to what other jazz tune to compare it to: it´s not rock´n´roll, it´s not jazz but it sure swings
Not surprisingly George Barnes (July 17, 1921 – September 5, 1977) was a world-renowned swing jazz guitarist, who claimed he played the first electric guitar in 1931, preceding Benny Goodman´s guitarist Charlie Christian by six years. George Barnes made the first recording of an electric guitar in 1938 in sessions with Big Bill Broonzy.
Although he first recorded under his own name in 1940 for the Okeh label and recorded with his octet for Mercury starting in 1946, he mainly worked as a studio musician for Decca. He accompanied pretty much everybody in the field including Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Frank Sinatra but also helped spice-up the recordings of teen stars like Janis Martin and Connie Francis.
Carl Kress and George Barnes from the album Guitars Anyone?
George Barnes perfected his own unique style that was more swing than be-bop. His improvisation employed “call and answer” extensively — e.g. playing a line in one octave (call) and repeating the exact or similar line in another octave (answer). His lines swung, were well articulated and often cleverly posed. Barnes’ tone was brighter than most jazz guitarists and reflected his “happy” approach.
All of this can be heard on Love is Just Around The Corner, taken from the „Guitar in Velvet“ LP on Grand Award Records in 1957. I have no idea how he I did it, all I know is that this song makes me happy…
Unfortunately despite the more than 20 albums George Barnes recorded, only three CD´s worth of material are currently available. I couldn´t even find his albums Country Jazz, Guitar Galaxies or Guitars Galore on the Internet. His daughter Alexandra however recently helped publish one of his most ambitious works Bach Fugue in G Minor: The Session, as played by George Barnes and his Jazz Renaissance Quintet in 1962. The recordings were digitally remastered from two acetate discs, because Mercury initially rejected them as too esoteric.