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Barry Finnerty

BARRY FINNERTY, was born in San Francisco on December 3, 1951. My father, Warren, was an award-winning actor (he received the Village Voice Obie for Best Actor of 1960 for "The Connection") and my mother, Ruth, was an excellent classical pianist who later got her PhD and taught English at UC Berkeley.

I began playing piano and reading music at age 5, then got my first guitar (a classical) for my 13th birthday. I got my first electric guitar, a Fender Jaguar, for my 14th birthday while living in Hong Kong (my mom had gotten a Fulbright grant to teach there for a year), and that same year my first band, The New Breed, opened the show for Herman's Hermits! I seemed to get some attention for my ability to play the guitar solos from the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" and the Rolling Stones' "Heart Of Stone" note for note! The band also played songs by the Who, the Kinks, and the Yardbirds. Jeff Beck was my first real guitar hero.

I returned to San Francisco in 1966 and played in high school bands while absorbing the new hippie rock scene at the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms. Here I heard Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead, Mike Bloomfield with the Butterfield Blues Band, and later, Eric Clapton with the Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, along with virtually all the top bands of the time. Hearing Jerry Garcia's smooth melodic playing influenced me to trade in my Jaguar for a red single cutaway Guild Starfire. But I really identified more with Jeff Beck, so I traded that one in for a '57 cherry sunburst Les Paul...with a Bigsby tremolo! (I had it removed..I had worked hard on my finger vibrato and I didn't want anyone to think I was cheating!) The price of that guitar..500 bucks. Now it would be worth at least $25,000!

Around that time, I began to be interested in jazz, and studied jazz guitar and theory with Dave Smith at Sherman Clay music store in downtown SF. I listened to records by guitarists such as Howard Roberts (my first real jazz influence), Kenny Burrell, and George Benson, as well as Dave Brubeck (with Paul Desmond), Miles Davis ("Kind Of Blue") and John Coltrane. I traded in the Les Paul for a 1960 blond Gibson Johnny Smith. I played and sang in a band, Beefy Red, that opened shows at the Fillmore and Avalon and featured some of the Bay Area's top young musicians. In 1969 I entered UC Berkeley and studied philosophy, astronomy, ear training and sight singing, which considerably advanced my musicianship and conceptual abilities. In 1971 I attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston for one semester, during which time I went to New York and heard some real heavyweight artists, live, including George Benson (who I still consider the greatest jazz guitarist in the world, bar none!), Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. I could see that I wasn't quite ready yet, so I returned to San Francisco for two more years of "seasoning." I played some gigs around the area and bought another Les Paul from my old high school band mate Adam Silver...a beautiful '59 sunburst...for $500 again!

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Barry Finnerty is back. One of the top guitarists on the New York jazz scene in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s — his brilliant playing with the Crusaders, Miles Davis and the Brecker Brothers put him on the international map — Finnerty has just released his first live studio recordings in a decade: “Blues for Trane,” a bracing straight-ahead session imbued with the probing spirit of John Coltrane, and “Manhattan Sessions Part 1,” a far-ranging contemporary set full of pleasing melodies and dancing grooves, deft arrangements and vital solos. Together, they capture a masterly musician in peak form, playing in the inspired company of trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassists Victor Bailey (electric) and Ron McClure (acoustic), pianist David Kikoski, drummers Graham Hawthorne and Victor Jones, and Chuggy Carter on percussion.

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Primary Instrument

Guitar, electric


San Francisco

Willing to teach

Advanced only


$75/hr. also available on Skype, email for an appointment

Clinic/Workshop Information

"SERIOUS JAZZ SEMINARS" based on Barry's internationally acclaimed "SERIOUS JAZZ" educational books.


Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

The Trio Vol. 2

Dave Bass Music


The Complete Arista...

Legacy Recordings



Cheetah - Pony/Canyon (Japan)


Trazz! (Trance Jazz)

Birdland Records


2B Named Later

Maya Recordings


New York City

Double-Time Records


Baltic Bolero

From: The Trio Vol. 2
By Barry Finnerty



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