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.

Count Basie
Chairman of the Board

Jane Bunnett
Cuban Odyssey

Alf Clausen Jazz Orchestra
Swing Can Really Hang You Up the Most

Carl Fontana
The Fifties

Coleman Hawkins
The Best of Coleman Hawkins

Philly Joe Jones Dameronia
Look, Stop and Listen
Featuring Johnny Griffin

Wes Montgomery

Claudio Roditi
Free Wheelin': The Music of Lee Morgan

Horace Silver
Paris Blues

Gary Smulyan
High Noon: The Jazz Soul of Frankie Laine

Various Artists
The Prestige Legacy, Volume 1: The High Priests

Steve Weist
Out of the New

Complete CD Liner Notes Credits
ArtistCD TitleLabel
Eric AlexanderFull RangeCriss Cross Jazz
Helio AlvesPortrait In Black and WhiteReservoir Music
Anush ApoyanA Dedication to Horace SilverBlack & Blue
Robert Bachner & Helmar HillEin feiner ZugATS
Thomas Barber's Janus BlocSnow RoadD Clef
Carl Bartlett, Jr.Hopeful
Count BasieChairman of the BoardRoulette Jazz
Roni Ben-HurSignatureReservoir Music
Walter BlandingThe Olive TreeCriss Cross Jazz
Don BradenAfter DarkCriss Cross Jazz
Jane BunnettCuban OdysseyEMI Music Canada
Sharel CassityRelentlessJazz Legacy Productions
Al ClausenSwing Can Really Hang You Up the MostSunny NoDak
Steve DavisVibe Up!Criss Cross Jazz
Dena DeRoseIntroducing Dena DeRoseSharp Nine
Dena DeRoseUnitedHigh Note
Orrin EvansGrown Folk BiznessCriss Cross Jazz
John Fedchock New York Big BandNo NonsenseReservoir Music
John Fedchock New York Big BandUp & RunningReservoir Music
Carl FontanaThe FiftiesUptown
Sayuri GotoFlashbackFever Pitch
Sayuri GotoPrayerFever Pitch
Jimmy GreeneIntroducing Jimmy GreeneCriss Cross Jazz
Coleman HawkinsThe Best of Coleman Hawkins [Prestige Profiles: Coleman Hawkins]Prestige
David HazeltineA World for HerCriss Cross Jazz
Conrad HerwigHeart of DarknessCriss Cross Jazz
Jane JarvisSagmo's SongFaith
Jane Jarvis & Benny PowellTwo of a KindFaith
Ingrid JensenHere on EarthEnja
Philly Joe Jones DameroniaLook, Stop and Listen Featuring Johnny GriffinUptown
David KikoskiAlmost TwilightCriss Cross Jazz
Yuko KimoraA Beautiful Friendship
Yuko KimoraNexus
Yuko KimuraBridges
Ryan KisorThe DreamCriss Cross Jazz
Marilyn LernerBirds Are ReturningJazz Focus
Achilles LiarmakopolousTrombone Atrivedo Opening Day
Gene LudwigThe Groove ORGANizationBlues Leaf
Joe MagnarelliMr. MagsCriss Cross Jazz
Virgina MayhewNini GreenChiaroscuro
Virginia MayhewNo WallsFoxhaven
Virginia MayhewPhantomsRenma
Virginia MayhewSandan ShuffleRenma
Virginia MayhewA Simple Thank YouRenma
Virginia Mayhew Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 YearsRenma
Adriana MikiSashimikiApria
Wes MontgomeryDangerousMilestone
Dave PanichiBlues for McCoySpirit Song
Roberta PiketSoloThirteenth Note
Roberta PiketOne for MarianThirteenth Note
Roberta PiketWest Coast TrioThirteenth Note
Valery PonomarevBeyond the ObviousReservoir Music
Valery PonomarevThe MessengerReservoir Music
Valery PonomarevOur Father Who Art BlakeyZoho
Benny PowellCoast 2 CoastFaith
Benny PowellThe Gift of LoveFaith
Melvin RhyneKojoCriss Cross Jazz
Claudio RoditiDouble StandardsReservoir Music
Claudio RoditiFree Wheelin'Reservoir Music
Adonis RoseThe UnityCriss Cross Jazz
Jim RotundiReverenceCriss Cross Jazz
Harvie S & Sheryl BaileyPlucky StrumWhaling City Sound
Horace SilverParis BluesPablo
Gary SmulyanHigh Noon: The Jazz Soul of Frankie LaineReservoir Music
Doug TalleyNight and DaySerpentine
Uptown FiveUptown SwingHarlem
Various Artists: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins & John ColtraneThe Prestige Legacy, Volume 1: The High PriestsPrestige
Ceder Walton, Ron Carter & Billy Higgins: Sweet Basil TrioSt. ThomasEvidence Music
Walt WeiskopfAnytownCriss Cross Jazz
Steve WeistOut of the NewArabesque
Deborah WeiszBreaking Up, Breaking OutVah Wa
Rich WilleyGone with the PiggiesConsolidated Artists Productions

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