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Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery - SOLITUDE Wes Montgomery - SOLITUDE
33MMontgomery W1

Yes To Jazz...10060...1985...33 1/3 LP

Side 1
1) Mister Walker - Wes Montgomery...NTG
2) To Django - Wes Montgomery...NTG

Side 2
1) Here´s That Rainy Day - Wes Montgomery...NTG
2) ´Round About Midnight - Wes Montgomery...NTG


Wes Montgomery


Side One
Side Two

Wes Montgomery (guitar)
Harold Mabern (piano)
Arthur Harper (bass)
Jimmy Lovelace (drums)
*Johnny Griffin (tenor) added for ´Round about midnight´ only
Recorded at a concert in Paris, March 27, 1965

This is the second of two albums taped at a Paris concert featuring the late Wes Montgomery; the first, ´Impressions´, will be found on Affinity AFF13.
John Leslie Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 6, 1925 and died there of a heart attack on 15 June 1968. In the intervening years he packed enough music-making to satisfy two or three other jazzmen and in the spring of 1965 he made what was to be his only trip to Europe. It was during that tour, which took in London, Madrid, Brussells, Lugano, San Remo and Rotterdam that the Paris concert took place.
He brought with him an American rhythm section (although the latter part of the tour was undertaken with local men) and for one number at the Paris concert he was joined by the expatriate American tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. (In some ways this was a renewal of a collaboration which had taken place at the Tsubo´ club in Berkeley, California, three years earlier when Griffin had often sat in with Wes´s quartet.)

After several years of near-obscurity in Indianapolis clubs Montogomery went on the road with the Lionel Hampton band from 1948 until 1950 before returning to his home town.
It was thanks to the good offices of visitors such as Cannoball Adderley that the attention of New York record producer Orrin Keepnews was drawn to Montgomery and he was soon making records under his own name, first with his regular trio and later with stellar groups of famous jazzmen. His unusual technique and distinctive tone brought him more attention than any guitarist since Charlie Christian and he was soon winning popularity polls in musical papers. It was not long before the gramophone companies decided that it was time to launch Wes onto a wider market and he was featured in front of expensive brass sections and lush carpets of strings. He won the coveted ´Grammy´ award in 1966 for his Goin´ Out Of My Head as the best instrumental jazz performance of the year and it was at about this point that he might have been excused for turning his back on jazz and concentrating on the mass market. But this was not Wes´s way. Although he once told arranger Jimmy Jones at a record date with strings ´make me sound like Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle´ he was, at heart, a deeply committed jazz musician and up to the time of his death he was working regularly with his own samll group at jazz venues. It was as if he saw himself as a man enjoying two paarallel careers which may have had points of contact but were generally quite distinct.

His visit to Europe occurred in between the recording of two albums under the supervision of Creed Taylor but when he appeared at the Ronnie Scott Club it was with Harold Mabern, Arthur Harper and Johnny Lovelace, and it was to play nothing but jazz. Significantly the audience invariably included a very high percentage of local guitarists, all anxious to study the unique Montgomery technique at close quarters. Yet despite this all-round adulation he remained a modest man and admitted that he was unable to read music. In fact he was not too sure just how he produced those beautiful octave sounds; he played with his thumb, eschewing a plectrum, and the ´second line´ which enhanced his work and gave it a greater rhythmic impetus came from an uncanny ability to duplicate the plucked string with the fleshy part of the thumb. Alexis Korner wrote ´Though Montgomery may not have known what most of his chords were called he certainly knew how they should sound. If his ear told him that a chord was right here, a phrase right there, Wes played it. Unencumbered. Dare one suggest, by too great a knowledge of the beauty which he was creating´.

Beauty is created on all four of the tracks here, especially on the three standards. Montgomery´s own Mister Walker is a latterday version of a number which he included in his 1960 Riverside album ´The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of West Montgomery´. Here his excellent rhythmic understanding enables him to push the rhythm section his way, giving them a series of lessons in the art of improvising propulsive riffs. Although To Django is credited to West it turns out to be a gentle and quite beautiful reading of a Montgomery favourite, The Girl Next Door. By coincidence Wes´s octave idea often cropped up on recorded solos by the late Django Reinhardt and while Montgomery obviously respected the work of the gypsy guitarist he was not an overt copyist. The rhythm section produces a gentle, undulting backdrop for Here´s That Rainy Day, a ballad which took on a frash lease of life when both Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz recorded it. In this context Wes Montgomery was unbeatable, bridging the gap between the specialised jazz audience and the masses who simply enjoyed the tunefulness and pleasing tone. On ´Round About Midnight the dramatic and mood-provoking melody is presented by Wes before Johnny Griffin eases his way in at the beginning of the second chorus. Montgomery´s delight at Griff´s entry is obvious and it is not long before the two are making music together as if they were both members of the same regular group.

These two albums from the Paris concert are important additions to our recorded knowledge of this remarkable guitarist for they show that, despite the string-laden albums aimed at the popular market, Wes Montgomery never lost his love for spontaneously improvised jazz.

Alun Morgan

Sleeve design by Bernard Higton * Photographs: Jacques Bisceglia

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