So I’ve written about the folk music I listen to and the blues, bluegrass, and some rock but I haven’t really written about the jazz I listen to. So tonight spinning in the CD player is one of my favorite jazz musicians the incomparable Wes Montgomery. I was still in high school when I started to listen to Wes Montgomery. He recorded three albums on A&M records that were the most commercially successful of his short career. (He died in 1968 of a heart attack). Those three albums A Day in the Life , Down Here on the Ground, and Road Song. all of which contained covers of pop hits along with Wes’ great guitar work were my introduction to his music. I soon moved on to other more classic jazz albums he recorded for Riverside and Verve like Movin’ Wes and Willow Weep for Me. One of my favorites is the album he recorded with Jimmy Smith The Dynamic Duo. That album that lead me to the music of the incredible Jimmy Smith, who will probably be the subject of subsequent jazz posts! As the years have passed, I’ve collected many of his albums on CD including The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, Bags Meets Wes (an album done with another favorite Milt “Bags” Jackson – like Jimmy Smith more on him later), Boss Guitar, Groove Yard (The Wes Montgomery Trio featuring brothers Buddy and Monk), Live in Belgium 1965 and the one I am listening to tonight Full House – recorded “live” and Tsubo in Berekely California. From the liner notes: Wes had risen from obscurity to being the Number One jazz guitarist in less than two years and while his studio recordings were great most people thought they did not capture the full effect of how incredible a guitarist he was, for that they felt a live recording was needed! So in June of 1962, the stars figuratively and literally aligned to produce this album. Wes had new songs to record and the Miles Davis Sextet was in town which brought together a rhythm section for Wes consisting of Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers, bass, and Jimmy Cobb, drums. Johnny Griffn a top tenor sax man was also in town, so they were all pulled together and Wes taught them the material. Wes had worked at a coffeehouse called Tsubos and was impressed with the acoustic so that was where it was decided they would record! The place was packed that night, hence the name Full House. Seven songs were recorded that night six were used to fill out the album. Three of the tracks are nine minutes plus giving Wes time to develop his amazing solos, which evidently went from straight notes, to octaves (which no one else did or does) and finally block chords. I didn’t know that, actually I knew he played in octaves, but not the progressions. All I know is that it’s great music and a great album! I also knew he played with his thumb rather than a pick, which gave him a distinctive sound but didn’t know why. Evidently, it was because he didn’t want to disturb his wife when he practiced at night after work!
Anyway if you’ve never had Wes go find an album and give it a listen and be prepared to experience some incredible jazz guitar!
Here’s a video of him playing a signature song “Jingles”