Wes Montgomery - Dangerous - Milestone MCD 9298
The tale of Wes Montgomery is, by now, a familiar one - how this self-taught Indianapolis-born virtuoso first gained attention playing with his brothers, how he became the most important and imitated jazz voice on the electric guitar since Charlie Christian, how he died in 1968, at the height of his fame, just forty-three years old, leaving behind a huge pile of brilliant recordings. And now that legacy has grown a bit larger, thanks to this set of alternate takes and unissued tracks, all of them, until now, unattainable on a single CD release.
The collection opens with an easy 1961 stroll through If I Should Lose You by the Montgomery Brothers plus drummer Bobby Thomas. Wes and Buddy state the theme in close guitar and piano voicings that bring to mind the King Cole Trio. In his solo chorus, Wes displays his signature rich, round tone - remember he always used his thumb, never a pick - while Buddy's engaging half-chorus is filled with skittery, double-time phrases.
Recorded live in 1962, Wes' S.O.S. unites him with tough tenor Johnny Griffin and the same state-of-the-art rhythm section (Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb) that drove the Miles Davis Quintet from 1959 to 1962, and the guitarist's smokin' Half Note sessions of 1965. With his relentless energy and urgent tone, Griff is excitement personified. Wynton's two choruses remind us of the great loss suffered by jazz world when this underappreciated talent departed in 1971.
Next up: a tasty 1963 set by Wes, organist Mel Rhyne, and drummer George Brown. Wes was working in the organ-guitar bag well before his legendary collaborations with Jimmy Smith, and Rhyne, another Naptown native, proves a worthy partner. In the late 1960s the organist moved to Wisconsin, where, as Milwaukee's resident jazz legend, he continues to carry this venerable tradition forward.
The trio plays the seldom-heard ballad, Yesterday's Child, fairly straight, with Wes building his solo largely on sensitive single-note lines that paraphrase and embellish the melody. Mel Rhyne handles the first solo on Wes' original, Dangerous, with clipped, spidery phrases and effective use of space. Wes follows, his funky, riff-based statement echoing Mel's deliberate approach, while George Brown maintains an infectious groove.
For Lolita, by the respected pianist and teacher Barry Harris, the trio digs into their Latin bag. Wes opens with his trademark parallel octaves and eases seamlessly into rich chords. Maybe it's been said before, but it merits repeating: Wes was every bit as dexterous and inventive improvising with his finger-stretching octaves and chords - maybe more so - as he was working in single-note lines.
Blues Riff, another original by Wes, represents what must have been, for him, a favorite form, the blues waltz. He had used it in "West Coast Blues" from the classic 1960 Riverside LP, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (OJCCD-036-2), and this is a fine follow-up to that celebrated performance. Musician-educator David Baker once remarked that Wes' "ability to transform even the most trite or pedestrian composition by drawing on his blues roots marks him as one of the great jazz players of all time." And on this track, those roots are showing.
The Montgomery Brothers, this time with Paul Humphreys on drums, return for the final three tracks, with Buddy switching to vibes. Buddy took up the instrument when he joined the Mastersounds, a co-operative group with a Modern Jazz Quartet-type instrumentation that, during the late 1950s, built a considerable following largely on the West Coast. (Brother Monk was the Mastersounds' bassist.) These performances - previously unissued tracks from a 1961 Fantasy Records date - reveal that the Montgomery Brothers band was a most egalitarian outfit that allowed each of the siblings his chance to shine.
Buddy is prominent on two breezy and swinging takes of Stella by Starlight, handling the melody and then turning out six shimmering and glasssy choruses. His refreshing approach and sound seem beholden to neither of the reigning masters of the vibes, Lionel Hampton nor Milt Jackson. But most of all, Buddy takes a deserved step out of his older brother's long shadow, revealing for all to hear that imagination and resourcefulness run in the Montgomery family.
Throughout both his "Stella" solos Wes effortlessly spins new phrases from previous ones, developing them and expanding upon them in a wonderful display of the spontaneous invention and logic that inform that mysterious, miraculous process called "jazz improvisation." And notice how - except during the trades in the second take - he employs only single-note lines. True, Wes' famous parallel octaves were a trademark (and, once he moved into a more commercial direction, a cliché), but at no time were they a crutch.
On Green Dolphin Street turns the solo spotlight onto Monk Montgomery, like his two brothers, an accomplished, yet self-taught, musician. Monk is perhaps best-known for introducing the electric Fender bass to jazz while he was a member of Lionel Hampton's big band in early '50s. Here he plays the preferred acoustic model in a clever solo laced with musical quotations.
This track is also an instructive example of the Montgomery Brothers' ensemble style. For three choruses an intricate and tightly knit vibes-guitar variation trades eights with Monk's bass. Then an interlude section, a bit ragged here - this is, after all, an alternate take - separates Monk's solo and his out-chorus. Buddy is heard during that interlude and Wes plays a supporting role throughout.
More than thirty years after his departure, Wes Montgomery occupies a rare and rarified status, sitting among that pantheon of singular jazz artists who left a unique mark on the music. The knowing jazz audience rightly treasures every track, every chorus, every note that he gave us. And so, the discovery and release of this hour-plus stash of largely unheard Wes Montgomery music - most of it hard-to-find, some of it unavailable - is, without question, cause for celebration. And what is the best way to celebrate Wes' musical legacy? Just listen.
|Complete CD Liner Notes Credits|
|Eric Alexander||Full Range||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Helio Alves||Portrait In Black and White||Reservoir Music|
|Anush Apoyan||A Dedication to Horace Silver||Black & Blue|
|Robert Bachner & Helmar Hill||Ein feiner Zug||ATS|
|Thomas Barber's Janus Bloc||Snow Road||D Clef|
|Carl Bartlett, Jr.||Hopeful|
|Count Basie||Chairman of the Board||Roulette Jazz|
|Roni Ben-Hur||Signature||Reservoir Music|
|Walter Blanding||The Olive Tree||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Don Braden||After Dark||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Jane Bunnett||Cuban Odyssey||EMI Music Canada|
|Sharel Cassity||Relentless||Jazz Legacy Productions|
|Al Clausen||Swing Can Really Hang You Up the Most||Sunny NoDak|
|Steve Davis||Vibe Up!||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Dena DeRose||Introducing Dena DeRose||Sharp Nine|
|Dena DeRose||United||High Note|
|Orrin Evans||Grown Folk Bizness||Criss Cross Jazz|
|John Fedchock New York Big Band||No Nonsense||Reservoir Music|
|John Fedchock New York Big Band||Up & Running||Reservoir Music|
|Carl Fontana||The Fifties||Uptown|
|Sayuri Goto||Flashback||Fever Pitch|
|Sayuri Goto||Prayer||Fever Pitch|
|Jimmy Greene||Introducing Jimmy Greene||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Coleman Hawkins||The Best of Coleman Hawkins [Prestige Profiles: Coleman Hawkins]||Prestige|
|David Hazeltine||A World for Her||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Conrad Herwig||Heart of Darkness||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Jane Jarvis||Sagmo's Song||Faith|
|Jane Jarvis & Benny Powell||Two of a Kind||Faith|
|Ingrid Jensen||Here on Earth||Enja|
|Philly Joe Jones Dameronia||Look, Stop and Listen Featuring Johnny Griffin||Uptown|
|David Kikoski||Almost Twilight||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Yuko Kimora||A Beautiful Friendship|
|Ryan Kisor||The Dream||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Marilyn Lerner||Birds Are Returning||Jazz Focus|
|Achilles Liarmakopolous||Trombone Atrivedo ||Opening Day|
|Gene Ludwig||The Groove ORGANization||Blues Leaf|
|Joe Magnarelli||Mr. Mags||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Virgina Mayhew||Nini Green||Chiaroscuro|
|Virginia Mayhew||No Walls||Foxhaven|
|Virginia Mayhew||Sandan Shuffle||Renma|
|Virginia Mayhew||A Simple Thank You||Renma|
|Virginia Mayhew|| Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years||Renma|
|Dave Panichi||Blues for McCoy||Spirit Song|
|Roberta Piket||Solo||Thirteenth Note|
|Roberta Piket||One for Marian||Thirteenth Note|
|Valery Ponomarev||Beyond the Obvious||Reservoir Music|
|Valery Ponomarev||The Messenger||Reservoir Music|
|Valery Ponomarev||Our Father Who Art Blakey||Zoho|
|Benny Powell||Coast 2 Coast||Faith|
|Benny Powell||The Gift of Love||Faith|
|Melvin Rhyne||Kojo||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Claudio Roditi||Double Standards||Reservoir Music|
|Claudio Roditi||Free Wheelin'||Reservoir Music|
|Adonis Rose||The Unity||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Jim Rotundi||Reverence||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Harvie S & Sheryl Bailey||Plucky Strum||Whaling City Sound|
|Horace Silver||Paris Blues||Pablo|
|Gary Smulyan||High Noon: The Jazz Soul of Frankie Laine||Reservoir Music|
|Doug Talley||Night and Day||Serpentine|
|Uptown Five||Uptown Swing||Harlem|
|Various Artists: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins & John Coltrane||The Prestige Legacy, Volume 1: The High Priests||Prestige|
|Ceder Walton, Ron Carter & Billy Higgins: Sweet Basil Trio||St. Thomas||Evidence Music|
|Walt Weiskopf||Anytown||Criss Cross Jazz|
|Steve Weist||Out of the New||Arabesque|
|Deborah Weisz||Breaking Up, Breaking Out||Vah Wa|
|Rich Willey||Gone with the Piggies||Consolidated Artists Productions|