Wes Montgomery

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

Comments (4)

  1. Scott says:

    "Smokin’ at the Half Note" is available on iTunes too.

    I’ll give you another album to talk about (if you don’t already have it). "The Dynamic Duo" – Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery. "Down by the Riverside" is a great tune that really shows off both artists to their full extent and it’s the lead track on the CD! It just gets better after that.

  2. Rick Schaut says:

    I’d thought of iTunes after posting this. Even though I have an account, I’ve relegated it to the back burner. I find I still prefer to have the CD’s around.

    Wes and Jimmy–sounds like a great combination. I’ll have to check it out when next I get a change.


  3. Scott says:

    Yeah, I find that if I want the entire CD I just go buy the CD rather than buy the album on iTunes. If I just want a single song off the CD I usually just buy it on iTunes.

  4. There’s a reason Coltrane wanted Wes in his group!

    In addition to "The Dynamic Duo", I recommend the second collaboration between Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, "The Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes".

    Incidentally, I studied drums with Seattle drummer Brian Kirk, whose father played drums with the Montgomery brothers in Indiana. Brian told me he has childhood memories of Wes sitting in his living room!