One of Wes Montgomery's finest recordings, a Riverside date that showcases the influential guitarist in a quintet with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Lex Humphries, and the congas of Ray Barretto…
Concord Music Group will release five new titles in its Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. Enhanced by 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino, several bonus tracks on nearly each disc (some previously unreleased) and new liner notes providing historical context to the original material, the series celebrates the 60th anniversary of Riverside Records, the prolific New York-based label that showcased some of the most influential jazz artists and recordings of the 1950s and '60s.
Wes Montgomery appeared as leader or co-leader on a dozen Riverside albums, in a wide variety of formats ranging from organ trios to one with full string orchestra. Some of the most rewarding simply placed him in a studio with a superior rhythm section and let him deal with the mixture of ballads, blues, and swingers. So Much Guitar!, his fourth album for the label, is a notable example of this straightforward approach. Recorded in 1961, it features the flawless support of Ron Carter (in one of his very first sessions) and Hank Jones, and includes Montgomery's only entirely unaccompanied recording While We re Young. An added bonus in this Original Jazz Classics Remasters edition are eight selections recorded that same year during a Montgomery Brothers tour.
Because it was recorded between two of Wes Montgomery's best-known albums (Incredible Jazz Guitar and So Much Guitar), this particular CD is a bit underrated. The great guitarist is teamed with flutist James Clay (who switches to tenor on Wes' "So Do It!"), pianist Victor Feldman, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Louis Hayes for four standards (highlighted by Clifford Brown's "Sandu" and "Body and Soul"), Sam Jones' "Says You," and two Montgomery originals. The reissue also adds a pair of alternate takes to the fine program. Wes Montgomery made many of his finest jazz recordings originally for Riverside, and this is an often overlooked gem.
All eight of the albums Wes Montgomery issued on Verve in the mid-'60s (including the two he did with organist Jimmy Smith) are on this limited-edition, five-CD box set. With the addition of 20 bonus tracks (none previously unreleased, some of them alternate takes or overdubbed versions) and a 76-page booklet that includes readable reproductions of the original LP sleeves, it's the definitive compilation of his work for the label. By its very size, of course, its appeal might be limited to completists and serious collectors.
Never-before-released recording of legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery playing with jazz pianist Eddie Higgins. An exclusive 1959 performance recorded live in Indianapolis. Following the 2012 release of Resonance's archival set Echoes of Indiana Avenue, author, photo journalist, and private collector Duncan Schiedt approached the label to see if they'd be interested in releasing a live tape of Wes Montgomery he owned. It was a 1959 set where the guitarist sat in with the Eddie Higgins Trio, then featuring drummer Walter Perkins (and also an unknown bassist).
Orrin’s commentary (from his new liner notes): “I began constructing the 1960 definitive presentation of [Wes] Montgomery by recognizing the need to keep things as clear-cut and uncomplicated as possible. There were at least three unique aspects to his performing style: he played with his thumb, never using a pick… and his solos almost invariably included two elements routinely referred to as ‘impossible’—his use of octaves and of pianistic block chords. Self-taught (his first ‘lesson’ had involved heavy listening to Charlie Christian records) and never able to read music notation of any kind, he somehow possessed an unfailing command of the blues and of ballad tempo and was an impressive composer.”
Rare Wes Montgomery material is hard to come by. Not counting Willow Weep for Me, the posthumous LP Verve issued in 1968 not long after the guitarist's passing, there was Resonance's 2012 set Echoes of Indiana Avenue, which contained largely live performances from 1957 and 1958. In the Beginning, released three years after Echoes, draws from a similar well of unreleased recordings, offering a heavy dose of live material along with five sides produced by Quincy Jones at Columbia Studios in 1955, plus three tracks a session at Spire Records in Fresno, California in 1949.
Wes Montgomery accomplished something few jazz artists could, as he used the disparate elements of the orchestral string ensemble and small organ combo within a similar balladic approach. While one could contend these concepts may not be as effective as a more conventional configuration, Montgomery made them work to a certain extent. What he could not do was infuse an energy that transcends the ballad approach, making this style of jazz priceless. There's a certain lugubrious restraint that permeates this single CD, originally a two-fer on vinyl, that showcases the guitarist's first recordings with strings, and selections plucked from his most ramped down organ combo featuring Melvin Rhyne. The 12 selections with a 12-piece string ensemble (conducted and arranged by Jimmy Jones) plus woodwinds and his rhythm section cover standards, a lone original, a Miles Davis and a Duke Ellington composition…