When I first started this blog, I said I’d talk about music from time to time. I’ve been searching for the right opportunity to do so, but, until now, none have presented themselves.
This morning, however, NPR’s Morning Edition had a piece on Wes Montgomery. The big news is that Verve have reissued a remastered version of Smokin’ at the Half Note with a few extra tracks thrown in for good measure. Pat Metheny calls this “the absolute greatest jazz guitar album ever made.”
While I’m not sure I agree with Pat’s assessment, believing that at least one or two of Pat’s own albums might well belong in that spot, I do agree that this album belongs in the library of anyone who either loves jazz or appreciates the skills of a very talented guitarist.
What makes Smokin’ so special is that it’s a live recording. It captures the spontaneity and invention inherent in jazz improvisation. It’s one thing to work out a solo in the studio where you have time to think about an idea and several recording takes to express it to your satisfaction. It’s quite another to do the kinds of things Wes does in the impromptu setting of a live performance.
This is no self-indulgent foray into flights of technical fancy ala Al DiMeola and his cohorts on a stage in San Francisco. Not that I don’t enjoy listening to Al and Paco and John trading riffs that leave me shaking my head in wonderment, Wes’ playing has a soulful quality that’s absent in more popular live albums. When I listen to Wes, I’m less wowed by the technical display, though there is little doubt that Wes had a technical ability that rivals any guitar player, than I am simply moved by what Wes says. Wes’ musicality is on another level altogether.
So, my advice is that you run, don’t walk, to your nearest music reseller, and get your hands on this release of Smokin’ at the Half Note. You won’t be disappointed.
Currently playing in iTunes: West Coast Blues by Wes Montgomery