Wes Montgomery




wes resWes Montgomery always stood out from the welter of jazz guitarists who emerged in Charlie Christian’s wake. Using his thumb (rather than a plectrum) he developed the warmest sound: a bronze tone that was equally effective on tender ballads or for lighting sudden spot-fires amidst his otherwise cruising, groovy solos. Not everything that Wes recorded showed his artistry to best effect, however, the stand-out being Full House, recorded live with Johnny Griffin plus Miles Davis’s team of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb in 1962.

In Paris, a double album also recorded live with Griffin’s swashbuckling tenor saxophone, dates from 1965, and now vies with Full House in my affections. Montgomery stretches out more here, taking longer solos and unleashing some startling ideas. Just as exceptional are Harold Mabern’s virtuosic piano forays: slippery, surprising, multi-directional improvisations that sometimes even put Wes in the shade. Keeping this pair on the boil are bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace, while Griffin is present just a guest. Much stronger than Montgomery’s studio albums of the period, this should be a must for any fan.