WES MONTGOMERY: So Much Guitar!
Wes Montgomery (g) Hank Jones (p) Ron Carter (b) Lex Humphries (drs) Ray Barretto (cng – except on Side 1, #4; Side 2, # and 4)
New York City; August 4, 1961
Twisted Blues (5:31) (Wes Montgomery)
Cotton Tail (3:38) (Duke Ellington)
I Wish I Knew (5:26) (Gordon – Warren)
I’m Just a Lucky So and So (6:57) (David – Ellington)
Repetition (3:48) (Neil Hefti)
Somethin’ Like Bags (4:44) (Wes Montgomery)
While We’re Young (2:12) * (Alec Wilder)
One for My Baby (7:38) (Mercer – Arlen)
*unaccompanied guitar solo
The immensity of how much WES MONTGOMERY has to say on his guitar, and of how swift and startling has been his impact on the jazz world, can be quite concisely summarized by pointing out that Riverside went so far, in titling what was only his second album, as to describe him as “incredible” – and nobody called us down for it!
For the simple fact is that Wes is quite incredible, both in the figurative way that word is used to indicate the very best and in the strict sense that so much of what he achieves on his instrument (and how he does it) defies belief. The first time I saw and heard Wes was in the Fall of 1959, at a club in his native Indianapolis where he worked so closely behind a small bar that I couldn’t have been sitting more than a dozen feet from him. To the best of my knowledge, I still have 20/20 vision. But I found it impossible to keep his right thumb from blurring before my eyes when the tempo got way up there.
Since that time, many people have had occasion to note that and so many other even more impressive things. It was just a couple of months thereafter that Riverside brought out its first Wes Montgomery album, and the jazz public began to become aware of what such normally restrained critics as Ralph Gleason and John S. Wilson (and others as well) have variously described as the best and the newest approach to jazz guitar since the early-‘40s impact of Charlie Christian. This is roughly equivalent to calling an alto player the finest since Charlie Parker – and making it stick! For during the period following his emergence from almost-total self-imposed exile in Indianapolis, a host of musicians began to shout his praises; critics, as noted, joined the parade far more quickly than is their custom; and the jazz public also displayed swift awareness that here was someone truly and valuably different.
Thus the truly amazing artistry of Montgomery, whose failure to emerge on the national scene until he was in his mid-thirties was in part due to family responsibilities (he has six children) and in part to a natural diffidence (which those of us who have come to know him best have been doggedly trying to bully him out of), enabled him t short-cut the often exasperatingly long route from discovery to due recognition. He was “New Star” winner on guitar in the 1960 Down Beat International Critics Poll, and then topped all guitarists as the 1961 critics choice; and was voted first place and second place, respectively, by Metronome and Down Beat readers in their 1960 ballotings. Late in 1960 he joined forces with his brothers Monk and Buddy – or rather, rejoined forces, since the three had naturally worked together often in their home town before the two more quickly adventurous brothers had headed for the West Coast and considerable success as the core of “The Mastersounds.” With the club-to-club travels of the combined Montgomerys bringing Wes and a nationwide audience face to face with each other for the first time, his climb to full-scale acceptance and major stardom has been even further accelerated.
The present album, his fourth for Riverside, should accomplish still more of the same. His hand-picked support prominently features the unfailingly tasteful piano of Hank Jones (a musicians; musician if there ever was one, and with good reason) and includes two of the more highly promising of the excellent current crop of younger rhythm men: Lex Humphries on drums; the firm and imaginative Ron Carter on bass. Ray Barretto is on hand to greatly enhance the sound and feel of the rhythm – and those who are not familiar with this unique young percussionist should note that his presence on conga does not mean that there is anything Latin intended. To learn what it does mean, just listen.
In front of this solid backdrop, Wes displays just about every aspect of his formidable talent. His no-pick technique and his awesome climactic solo choruses played in octaves are brought to bear on a repertoire that is both far-ranging in mood and strikingly unhackneyed in content. Wes’ skills as a composer – particularly as a writer of blues-based numbers that escape, both melodically and structurally, from the beaten bath – are substantial. (His West Coast Blues, for example, first recorded in the “Incredible Jazz Guitar” album and later included in the Cannonball Adderley “African Waltz” big-band LP, seems well on its way to becoming a jazz standard.) The present album includes two new Montgomery efforts: the bright Somethin’ Like Bags, written with his good friend Milt Jackson in mind; and the intricately constructed Twisted Blues: so titled because, despite its extremely “bluesy” quality, it is a variation or twist on the form, rather than a strict blues. Two of the numbers included turn out to e firmly saxophone-associated: the intriguing and rarely recorded Repetition, once memorably performed by Charlie Parker with strings; and the Ben Webster specialty, Cottontail, taken at something like that previously mentioned ‘thumb-blurring’ tempo. Another Ellington composition, Lucky so and So, lightly and funkily swung; and there are ballad treatments of I Wish I Knew and Alec Wilder’s While We’re Young (the latter an unusual and affecting unaccompanied solo) to demonstrate how much sheer lyric beauty this guitarist can draw from his instrument. Finally, there is One for My Baby, a rich and leisurely exploration by Montgomery and Jones of the haunting Harold Arlen melody that searches for and finds all the “quarter to three” A.M. atmosphere that the song’s lyrics talk about. This one just had to e the closer (both at the date and on the record), so that all concerned can depart still wrapped in the mood it evokes and develops – a mood you won’t easily forget. And for that matter, an album you’re not likely to forget easily, either.
Wes’ other Riverside albums include –
Wes Montgomery Trio (RLP 310; Stereo 1153)
The Incredible Guitar of Wes Montgomery (RLP 320; Stereo 1169)
Movin’ Along (RLP 342; Stereo 9342)
He is also featured on –
Groove Yard: The Montgomery Brothers (RLP 362; Stereo 9362)
Cannonball Adderley and The Poll Winners (RLP 335; Stereo 9355)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios
Album designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by STEVE SCHAPIRO
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, New York