Wes’s Best – The Best Of Wes Montgomery On Resonance – Resonanace Records HCD-2039, 66:46 ****1/2:
Wes’s Best: The Best Of Wes Montgomery On Resonance represents a touchstone for Resonance Records. It is comprised of tracks from five “resurrected” Montgomery recordings, Smokin’ In Seattle, Back On Indiana Avenue; The Carroll DeCamp Recordings, In The Beginning, One Night In Indy and Echoes Of Indiana Avenue. Like all of the “Best Of” series, the music has been archived and produced with the cooperation of the family and estate of Wes Montgomery. Additionally, this part of the Takao Fujioka Collection includes eye-catching illustration by the Japanese graphic artist (who also is editor of the Way Out West journal). The opening track is a scintillating live version of “Jingles”. Montgomery first recorded this self-penned composition on his 1959 studio album, The Wes Montgomery Trio. On this live version (Smokin’ In Seattle: Live At The Penthouse) the guitarist comes out swinging, backed by Wynton Kelly’s trio.He and Kelly lay down opening vamps, and then Wes percolates. Even at the early stage of his career, the unmistakeable tonal sound and technical elasticity is palpable. The quartet is playful with spirited call and response . Next up is a Latin-tinged vintage rendition of another original “Mr. Walker” from Back On Indiana Avenue. In a similar quartet format (although it is only conjecture as to the specific accompanists), there are halting riffs, rhythmic chording and Montgomery’s solos that pierce through the arrangement like an arrow. The piano runs are equally moving and a stylish complement. “West Coast Blues” is quintessential Montgomery, operating in a tight blues construct, but insinuates the contexts of hard bop. Feeding off a repeat intro, the group breaks into hot medium swing with Montgomery and Kelly alternating on solo. Gritty and relentless, “Four On Six” brings an urgency and definitive musical statement that a new “guitar sheriff” is in town. The 8-bar repeat sets up an organic counterpoint for guitar.
Montgomery’s musical flexibility is on display as he and Wynton bring a crispness to Jobim’s “Once I Loved (O Amor em Paz)”. As the trio propels the bossa nova format, Montgomery injects his gliding, polished solo that adds a hard-driving component. It included punctuation to counter the understated flow of Jobim. In a change, “Wes’ Tune” is straight on bop with Pookie Johnson on tenor saxophone. Montgomery simply nails his run. The extended piano solo is forceful and underlines the band chemistry. Slowing things down, “Li’l Darling” has a relaxed groove and fluency. Eddie Higgins’ cool, late night piano licks are soul stirring. “Going Down To Big Mary’s” has a rhythm and blues feel with Debbie Andrews adding some incendiary vocals. A pair of early recordings from Echoes Of Indiana Avenue shine a light on Montgomery’s implicit talent. Shorty Rogers” sprightly, funky composition is harmonically complex and features the piano talents of Melvin Rhyne. The guitar solo is impeccable in timing and phrasing. Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream is shrouded in tempo and mood. A cinematic attitude prevails as Wes and Rhyne trade percolating solos. The jazz/blues swing of “Give Me The Simple Life” distills the essence of this beloved standard. As a finale, there can be no better choice than “‘Round Midnight”. Previously unreleased and now part of Back On Indiana Avenue, the Monk classic is soulfully interpreted by Montgomery in a head-spinning collection of solos with unique chords and notation. It is evident why modern guitarists have looked to this giant as an inspiration and trend setter.
Wes’s Best – The Best Of Wes Montgomery On Resonance is a jazz treasure. It showcases a historical perspective on the emergence of guitar in the jazz landscape.
Wes Montgomery – guitar; Mingo Jones – double bass; Monk Montgomery – double bass; Ron McClure – double bass; John Dale – double bass; Paul Parker – drums; Sonny Johnson – drums; Walter Perkins – drums; Jimmy Cobb – drums Buddy Montgomery – piano; Earl Van Riper – piano; John Bunch – piano; Eddie Higgins – piano David Young – tenor saxophone; David Baker – trombone; Melvin Rhyne – piano, organ; Wynton Kelly – piano; Buddy Montgomery – piano; Debbie Andrews – vocals
West Coast Blues
Four On Six
Once I Loved (O Amor Em Paz)
Going Down To Big Mary’s
Give Me The Simple Life