Dave's Journal

Wes Montgomery

todayFebruary 25, 2010


About this time last year I was sitting on a couch in France listening to Boss Guitar by Wes Montgomery for the millionth time thinking “I should really write a little something about Wes…” I made a short post to that effect as a sort of reminder… needless to say I forgot.

However it occurred to me recently that between then and now I have bought more recordings of Wes Montgomery than any other artist. I was a little surprised at first but when I had a look at the CD collection Mr. Montgomery was really starting to show out amongst the other M’s… without realising I had been actively collecting this guys music, buying something instantly the second i saw it in case it wasn’t there the next day.

Why Wes? Well it’s hard to explain without using the obvious lines…”one of the greatest….” ….”most dynamic…” yada yada yada.. while I would agree with the obvious stuff… the real reason was totally different.

… I was slouched down in the backseat of a car at 2am near the last leg of a long drive home. My eyes were following the street lights whiz by and the radio was filling the void of silence that had replaced all the usual small talk. A man with a deep husky voice, the kind of voice that sounds perfect for Jazz radio but in any other situation could only belong to a sex offender, was introducing a special show on Wes Montogmery’s “Boss Guitar” … ” ‘one of the greatest’ jazz guitar albums ever released” grumbled the man between puffs of a cigarette… regardless of the cliché, sitting in the back of that car with whatever was on my mind, the constant rhythm of the street lights and the tone of Montgomery’s guitar was utter perfection.

Like I said its hard to explain.

Montgomery’s typical style employs the use of octaves interchanged with tumbling melody lines, creating a unique fluxuating rhythm that dances around whatever is accompanying him. He had two main stages in his short career; the first was improvisational yet not very lucratuve (at the time) the second more arranged and dare i say “pop-y” with a smooth west coast sunny feel that suited his style perfectly. In the second stage he became quite successful however his more improvisational period resulted in some of the most amazing music I have ever heard. (theres those clichés again!) Often accompanied with a traditional jazz piano, bass and drum trio he would dance around the trio creating emmence solos that have been revered by guitarists ever since.

I could go on all day about his sound and ability but the best way to understand Wes Montgomery is through his music. As an introduction I would suggest you get your hands on either “Boss Guitar” or “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery” as an example of his studio albums. These feature a good range of tracks that show his ability and style.

For a live album however there is only one album that will do him justice… and im going to say it.. one of the greatest live jazz albums out there! “Smokin’ at the Half Note” features Wes playing with the Wynton Kelly Trio in 1965 at the Half Note club in New York.

If you let Wes into your head he will set it alight with colour – just gotta let him in!

Written by: intheblackbox

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