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.
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.”
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.
While it may be frustrating that Wes Montgomery all but stopped making "real" jazz records after the demise of the Riverside label in 1963, he didn't stop being a great musician, even if later recordings gave him less room to manifest the more exciting aspects of his talent. He continued to write and record original tunes, create turbulently logical solos with those dazzling octaves and block chords, and to include at least a few cooking tunes on his more produced albums. "Up and At It" is one of these, and while there isn't that much room to stretch out, it's still Montgomery all the way. Likewise the other original, "Goin' On to Detroit," is hardly the sound of a man just laying down the melody in octaves, as Montgomery was often accused of doing during this period. The rhythm section is none too shabby either: Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Grady Tate on drums.
The title of this compilation tries to make Montgomery viable for a younger generation, but it's not exactly "acid jazz." Rather, it's an anthology of some of Montgomery's better pop- and soul-oriented material from the mid-'60s. The 16 tracks show Montgomery in both orchestral and small combo settings, a few cuts taken from his collaborations with Jimmy Smith. Purists have long disdained this phase of Montgomery's career. But those who don't measure work by how straight-ahead it is will find much to enjoy here, in either the cuts with Oliver Nelson's orchestra, or the less elaborate sessions with the likes of Smith, Grady Tate, Ron Carter, and Ray Barretto.
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…