WES MONTGOMERY: FULL HOUSE
THE TOP JAZZ GUITATIST, RECORDED IN ACTUAL PERFORMANCE,
With Johnny Griffin (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Paul Chambers (b) Jimmy Cobb (drs)
Full House (9:14)
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face (3:18)
Blue’n Boogie (9:31)
Come Rain or Come Shine (6:49)
To describe this as “the Wes Montgomery album that a great many people have been waiting for” runs the risk of seeming to put down, at least by comparison, his previous records. And that would make no sense, for that remarkable, group of Riverside LPs has had a lot to do with Wes’ phenomenal rise to the top – from almost total obscurity to unchallenged acceptance as the Number One jazz guitarist in something less than two years. However, many of those studio work, effective and (to quote an album title) “incredible” as it may be, ahs not been able to convey the full measure of free-flowing excitement that can be created by an in-person Wes Montgomery performance. From this standpoint, an album such as this one, which does generate precisely that extra-special, 100%-plus feeling, must be considered extra-rewarding.
Ever since the first time I heard Wes – which was on the stand in a club – I have been among those anxious to have such a record come into being. But not just any old “live” date would do. All concerned wanted to wait for the best possible set-up: the right time, the right place, the right supporting cast. Then, early in June of 1962, Wes telephoned from California with news that all the necessary ingredients seemed to be at hand. He was in San Francisco. The Miles Davis Sextet was in town – meaning that the magnificent and close-knit rhythm unit of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb was available. Also on the city was tenorman Johnny Griffin. All these were men between whom there was considerable mutual respect. Furthermore, Wes had some new tunes that he felt would go very well in quintet form. Just across the bay, in the city of Berkeley, was a coffee house exotically named “Tsubo”; Wes had worked there with his brothers and was excited about the far better than average acoustics of the place. Last, but surely not least, the jazz audiences of that area are wonderfully stimulating people to play for (as we at Riverside have been aware ever since the extraordinary and best-selling “Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco” LP was made “live” out there.
It was decided to record in Tubo on a Monday, when his chosen associates would be having a night off from their regular jobs; and Wes began at once to make the group familiar with the material. On June 25rth, as engineer Wally Heider began to set up his equipment, it became obvious that the only audience problem might be one of excess – alerted by local newspaper stories and word-of-mouth, the faithful were arriving early, and long before starting time the modest-sides club was packed to the doors. Actually, the line outside the door stretched around the corner all night long, and there was also a permanent outdoor audience in a parking lot next door, listening via the loudspeakers in the “control room” we had set up in a storeroom behind the club! In short, the title “Full House” (which had originally struck me as a suitable reference to a group of five consisting strictly of kings and aces) can be taken as an entirely factual description of the setting for this album.
I propose to let the music contained herein speak for itself. Most of the tacks are on the long side, deliberately, for one major reason for recording Wes “live” was to capture the breathtaking way he ca build a solo through chorus after chorus. Too often the term “stretching out” really means nothing more than a lengthy and eventually tiresome solo stint; but the manner in which Wes constructs his solos in something else, bringing into play his amazing sense of dynamics and his ‘impossible’ octave and block-chord effects. Even such always-firely and tasteful soloists as Griffin and Kelly seem to have picked up an extra spark or two from Wes on this occasion. I discount my own reactions as being hopelessly prejudiced, but I do know that I haven’t seen San Francisco jazz critic Ralph Gleason so excited since the night that previously-mentioned Cannonball LP was cut.
So, without in any way detracting from the vigor and importance of past and future Wes Montgomery records, it can certainly be said that this album, capturing a brilliant jazz artist under the best of circumstances, is something truly special.
Produced by Orpheum Productions, Inc., 235 West 46th Street, New York, New York 10036