Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Seth Kessel wasn’t interested in music or a musical career until age 16, when he was invited to a private drum lesson by Steven Wolf who was touring with Annie Lennox. It was a surprising life changing experience that started an obsession with drums and music.
After playing drums in some rock and punk bands, without any formal training, he began to teach himself bass and other instruments while rehearsing. In 1999, he graduated from Fort Hamilton High School, playing in the Symphonic Band. Kessel took a couple of years off. He traveled to California with two friends, but quickly returned to New York.
Kessel attended a community college and was later accepted to State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY Purchase). He studied studio productions and interned for JSM Music, a huge production studio, through 2005.
He heard a friend fingerpicking an acoustic guitar playing “Alice’s Restaurant” and was amazed at the sound. It was one of those special moments when Kessel realized what he wanted to do in music. He had a total of $150 in a savings account and spent it on a new acoustic guitar and two guitar books. He taught himself fingerpicking Blues songs by pre-war Blues artists like Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Skip James, and Lead Belly, thanks to his mother’s album collection (before high-speed internet). All of this helped Kessel shift permanently to the guitar.
Kessel would hang out looking for work at a film center studio in Manhattan which was next door to Mirror Image Recording. He was later hired by Mirror Image as a studio engineer, working for the late Tommy Uzzo who had over 40 Platinum records to his engineering credit.
Izzy Zaidman (from NY but now living and working in Key West) gave him some guitar lessons and later took Kessel on tour. While touring, Kessel continued to learn and became a better musician. When he returned, he began playing music full time.
Kessel later studied jazz, learning old standards. He really liked the 1930s Jazz era. He started a jazz band called, Two Cent Band, with a trombone player, a saxophone player, drummer, and his guitar, playing old jazz. They played private parties as well as gigs and started making a little money. One night while hanging out at a New York bar, Kessel met Jerrod Isaman from Key West who was there on his honeymoon. They hung out together the rest of the night discussing music.
Later Isaman contacted Kessel and asked if he wanted to tour, playing rhythm guitar, in the Northeast with his group, Billy the Squid and the Sea Cow Drifters. Kessel had a lot of fun, made some new friends, and curiously kept hearing at every venue about the Key West vibe.
In March 2020, Isaman invited Kessel to Key West for a month’s work. Key West, during Spring Break, was overwhelming. He met a large group of Key West musicians, played Wisteria Island, and learned to cut coconuts. He was playing a ‘ton of gigs’, making money, enjoying great weather, staying with Isaman, and then, … the world shut down. New York was the epicenter of COVID so he decided to stay in Key West through June.
Kessel agrees that music is prolific in Key West and music is valued in Key West. For such a small community, the quality of musicians is very high, and the clubs appreciate both music and musicians. His latest group is the Yacht Club Swing Band.
Seth Kessel still plays for a corporate band that flies all over. He has toured Europe a few times and played in a number of festivals. His many accomplishments have blended into his career. He released a ten-song album in 2021 called, Ride on Through and recorded a single, “Let That Train Go By” that was covered in Guitar Magazine.
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