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.
A rare meeting of guitarist Wes Montgomery and the trio of pianist Wynton Kelly – heard here on unissued material that stands strongly next to their classic Smoking At The Half Note album on Verve! About half the tracks here just feature Kelly's trio – but that's A-Ok with us, as the group is wonderful – a luminous unit that features Ron McClure on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums – both players who showcase the maturing style of Wynton's piano work – a great mix of lyricism that stretches out beautifully on the album's longer tracks! Montgomery joins in about a third into the set, and the tunes get even sharper and groovier – as Wes' tones ring out strongly next to the piano, often opening up Kelly with even more chromatic hues. The whole thing is very well-recorded, and beautifully remastered.
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.
Orrin Keepnews' commentary (from his new liner notes): "The most significant feature of the album is the uncanny rapport between the two leaders. It is difficult to believe but probably true that, although they had undoubtedly frequently heard each other's work, they had never played together. But of course they had many attitudes and attributes in common. If the blues is indeed a language, it is one in which both of these men were extremely fluent. Equally important to both was the melodic content of their music. Some otherwise admirable players do not seem to have fully grasped the important fact that to perform a ballad properly involves much more than just keeping the tempo slow. Both Bags and Wes were firmly aware of this distinction. There is an extraordinary richness and fullness to their performances here, and there is also a feeling that each man is somehow drawing something tangible from the other's performance.”
As part of the Finest Hour series from Verve, guitarist Wes Montgomery is spotlighted on 16 tracks recorded between 1964 and his death in 1968. These sessions highlight the widely accepted jazz-pop combination he achieved on these Verve and A&M releases, which followed a four-year stint on Riverside where he attracted a limited, mainly jazz audience. The guitarist employed a winning formula that combined his straight-ahead jazz style while exploring current trends in pop music that encompassed Latin, funk, and string-laden arrangements. The impressive coverage of guest musicians includes Herbie Hancock, Ray Barretto, Ron Carter, Jimmy Smith, and Clark Terry.
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.