Movin’ Along: WES MONTGOMERY
Wes Montgomery (g, b-g: A-2, 4 B-1) James Clay (lf, ts, on Side 2, #2 only) ) Victor Feldman (p) Sam Jones (b) Louis Hayes (drs) (Clay is not on Side 1, #3, and Side 2, #3.)
LA; October 12, 1960
Movin’ Along (5:40) (Wes Montgomery)
Tune-Up (4:29) (Miles Davis)
Ghost of a Chance (5:07) (Crosby – Washington – Young)
Sandu (3:21) (Clifford Brown)
Body and Soul (7:18) (Heyman – Sour – Green)
So Do It! (6:40) (Wes Montgomery)
Says You (4:57) (Sam Jones)
Of all the many and varied excitements of jazz, surely none is more dramatic and stimulating than one of those rare occasions when a new star of major importance suddenly bursts through, apparently from nowhere, to full-scale recognition. In the even rarer instances when such a newcomer also offers a startlingly different and revitalizing approach to his instrument, the impact is of course all the greater. Such is the case with the lightning-swift emergence of WES MONTGOMERY.
Like most such sudden meteors, Wes has actually been playing for a long time. Now in his mid-thirties, he has been developing his highly personal style for more than a decade. But choice and family responsibilities (including six children) had kept him close to his hometown of Indianapolis. As recently as the Fall of 1959 his name was still known only to a very few – mostly jazz-listening residents of that city and musicians who had passed through. Then one such traveler, Cannonball Adderley, hearing Wes for the first time, insistently brought him to the attention of Riverside. Before 1960 was done, Montgomery was established as a “name” artist, which (as the title of this LP suggests) is pretty fast Movin’ Along.
This phenomenal and drastically original guitarist has had an immediate and remarkable effect on all who have heard him. By late 1960 it was already old and accepted news that the normally restrained Ralph J. Gleason had bluntly labelled him as “the best thing to happen to the guitar since Charlie Christian.” And the list of honors heaped on Wes can hardly have been equalled by any other first-year man. In Down Beat’s critics poll, he walked off with the “New Star” sward on his instrument. A Billboard poll designated him “most promising instrumentalist” of the year. Metronome’s readers voted him first among guitarists, and in the Down Beat readers’ balloting he ranked second only to the long-time poll-winning Barney Kessel.
A New York Times review by critic John S. Wilson aptly pinpoints the approach by which Montgomery produces his consistently ‘impossible’ guitar music. Noting that the legacy of the great pioneer modernist Charlie Christian has been so overwhelming that jazz guitar since the early ‘40s has “almost invariably been a diluted reflection of his playing," Wilson points out that with the appearance of Montgomery on the scene his is no longer universally true. Wes “uses only his thumb as a plectrum, mixing chords and remarkably rapid single-note lines, . . . so his playing does not have the looping flow that has been common since Christian. Instead it has a fierce jabbing intensity that has much in common with the attack of such present-day saxophonists as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. . . By this means he has changed the guitar form an instrument producing a relatively delicate sound . . . to a remarkably strong, full-throated ensemble and solo voice.”
The object of all this excitement can be heard in full stride on this album, backed by a formidable and flawlessly tight-knit trio – Vic Feldman, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes – that is quickly identifiable as Cannonball’s rhythm section. Fortunate coincidence had a hand in teaming them with the guitarist. Wes was in San Francisco, preparing with his brothers Monk, and Buddy for the launching of a Montgomery Brothers group. He had his material ready and was eager to record; the Adderley sideman had a few free days between engagements in Los Angeles; this writer, in L.A. to cut a group of albums, brought the four together. For further fire and instrumental color, James Clay, a vastly promising young Texas-born flute and tenor man, was added – and his rich flute sound blends particularly effectively with the deep, warm tones of the bass guitar We uses on Body and Soul, Miles Davis’ Tune-Up, and Clifford Brown’s Sandu. The latter tunes also serves to showcase the twin “bottom” sounds of the bass guitar and Sam Jones’ wonderfully sturdy bass.
The title tune, a soulful blues line with a compelling lift to it, offers a particularly mood-creating Montgomery solo. Ghost of a Chance (the full title of which is actually I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You) is a sensitive ballad exploration of a too-seldom played standard; So Do It! is another earthy Montgomery original’ and the album goes out swinging with Sam Jones’ rollicking, boppish Says You.
Even though the swift and overwhelming acceptance of Wes Montgomery derived largely from strong reactions to his first two Riverside recordings, some who had heard him in person felt that Wes had not yet been caught at his best on records. Actually, Montgomery is a ‘blowing’ jazzman in the best sense of the word: thoroughly modern in approach, he is nevertheless in some respects a throwback to the earlier jam-session type of musician who delights in playing all night long. (When we first heard him in Indianapolis he was doing just that, following his regular job with a stint at a ‘til-dawn after-hours club!) The breathtaking extreme-best efforts of such a musically uninhibited free spirit may possibly never be totally captured in the recording studio. But this third album strikes us as his most impressive studio work to date. On this particular night he was in a mood to display (in addition to his ever-present lyricism and soul) a great deal of well-merited assurance and driving musical aggressiveness. Fully relaxed and playing in very good company indeed, Wes surely came close enough to peak performance to more than satisfy anyone.
Wes’ previous Riverside albums are –
WES MONTGOMERY Trio (RLP 12-310 and Stereo RLP 1156)
Incredible Jazz Guitar of WES MONTGOMERY (RLP 12-320 and Stereo RLP 1169)
He is also featured on –
Work Song: NAT ADDERLEY; with Wes Montgomery, Sam Jones (RLP 12-318 and Stereo RLP 1167)
Jones and Clay lead all-star groups on –
The Soul Society: SAM JONES; with Nat Adderley, Bobby Timmons, Blue Mitchell, Jimmy Heath (RLP 12-324 and Stereo RLP 1172)
Sound of the Wide Open Spaces: JAMES CLAY and DAVID ‘FATHEAD’ NEWMAN (RLP 12-327 and Stereo RLP 1178)
(The present recording is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP 9342)
Produced and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Cover and back-liner photographs by WILLIAM CLAXTON
Recording Engineer: WALLY HEIDER (United Recording Studios)
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.