Friday, December 11, 2009

Wes Montgomery on Riverside

There is a special place in my heart for West Coast guitar master Wes Montgomery.  My jazz collecting falls neatly into two periods. The first was back in grad school when I purchased my first decent stereo and music still came packaged in thin slices of black plastic, the size of a medium pizza. The second began only a few years ago when I purchased my first iPod.

My love for WM belongs to the first period.  I landed a two album collection called, as I remember, Full House.  I can still feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck the first time I listened to it.  Montgomery had a unique style of soloing that consisted in playing the same note simultaneously on two strings, one octave apart.  The result was a rich, deep, and heart-warming union of flesh and string.  I cannot not love it.

I recently acquired The Complete Riverside Recordings, a box set of twelve CDs.  Everything I had is on it, and a lot more.  Given the size of the box, I am not shy about offering several samples.  Here is one recorded in LA in 1960.  The cast is James Clay (ts, fl) Victor Feldman (p) Wes Montgomery (g, bag) Sam Jones (b) Louis Hayes (d).  Victor Feldman?  Clay's flute is wonderful, and this number demonstrates how marvelous an accompanist Montgomery was.
Wes Montgomery/Movin' Along/The Complete Riverside Recordings
 Here is one of the finest recordings of a very fine song, under the leadership of "the other Adderley."  This is the heart of Jazz blues.  This is the band: Nat Adderley (cor) Bobby Timmons (p) Wes Montgomery (g) Sam Jones (cello, b) Percy Heath (b) Louis Hayes (d).   This has the same kind of power that Timmon's 'Moanin' had. 
Nat Adderley/Work Song/The Complete Riverside Recordings
 And here are a couple more.  The first is a great testament to the West Coast sound.  The second is a testament to Wes Montgomery's romantic heart.
Wes Montgomery/West Coast Blues/The Complete Riverside Recordings

Wes Montgomery/One More for my Baby and One More for the Road /The Complete Riverside Recordings
 That last title alone is a document in the history of culture and a discourse on the architecture of the human soul.  It is so shockingly incorrect: two more drinks before driving.  That is the texture of another age, even if it was a mere half century ago.  But boy does it tell a story.  Hank Jones (p) Wes Montgomery (g) Ron Carter (b) Lex Humphries (d).  1961.  
Its quarter to three,
There's no one in the place cept you and me
So set em up joe
I got a little story I think you oughtta know

 We're drinking my friend
To the end of a brief episode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road

 All of that, the dark bar with all the light up front, the one guy still sitting on his stool, it's in every riff that Montgomery plays.  This is why God made music. 

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