Nelson Riveros – The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery – ZOHO

by | May 31, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Nelson Riveros – The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery – [TrackList follows] – ZOHO [distributed by Music Video Distributor] ZM 202103, 41:24 [2/5/21] ****:

Nelson Riveros – guitar; Mark Walker – drums; Jonathan Gomez – percussion; Hector Martignon – piano; Andy McKee – bass

The last decade has been a great time for Wes Montgomery devotees. The Resonance label released several Montgomery archival projects: 2012’s Echoes of Indiana Avenue; 2015’s In the Beginning; 2016’s One Night in Indy; and in 2017 came Smokin’ in Seattle and In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording. In early 2021 the ZOHO label—which specializes in Latin jazz—issued guitarist Nelson Riveros’ 41-minute The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery, which has nine tunes: two Riveros homages and seven penned by Montgomery. Riveros—born in New York City but a longtime student of Latin American music—chose to rethink Montgomery’s music in a Latin American fashion after a gig which comprised some Montgomery material. Riveros states, “I started to hear all kinds of rhythms, bass lines, and melodic variations to some of his tunes. The next day, I started writing arrangements, and this very project began to take shape.” Prior to his studio recording, Riveros thoroughly studied Montgomery’s performance, style, and musical structures. Then Riveros put together a luminous group to record his tribute. Riveros partnered with pianist Hector Martignon (two of his solo albums were nominated for Grammy awards); drummer Mark Walker (he’s toured with Oregon; Michel Camilo; and the Christian McBride Big Band); famed bassist Andy McKee (Mingus Big Band; Elvin Jones; and Michel Petrucciani); and percussionist Jonathan Gomez. This is a quintet which has an empathy which flawlessly and fluidly translates Montgomery into an enjoyable and enthralling Latin Jazz exhibition.

Portrait Wes Montgomery 1967

Wes Montgomery 1967

Opener “Road Song”—the title track from Montgomery’s 1968 A&M Records album—features a tricky harmonic introduction that becomes a melodic unit later in the arrangement. During “Road Song” Martignon supplies a Latin-esque comp and some animated montunos (a Cuban-derived ostinato figure with a repeated syncopation perfectly suited for piano). The piece nearly fades at the end, but then comes alive again for a festive finale. Another highlight is “Four on Six,” from the acclaimed 1960 LP, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (on the Riverside/OJC imprint). It’s a favorite of many Montgomery aficionados, including Riveros. He uses the original bass line and switches it into a syncopated tumbao (a Cuban rhythmic form often found in dance tempos). Riveros listened to all of Montgomery’s various versions of “Four on Six” and merged several moments into the arrangement. “Four on Six” is worth frequent listening for the wonderful piano and guitar improvisations as well as the band’s heady groove.

A two-for-one standout is Montgomery’s early composition, “Wes’ Tune” (from the 1958 Montgomery Brothers album Montgomeryland, reissued in 1990 as Far Wes) and a Riveros original based on “Wes’ Tune,” entitled “Nelson’s Groove.” Riveros’ arrangement of “Wes’ Tune” slows the tempo with a Colombian porro (a popular rhythm for dancing couples). Riveros serves up some brilliant soloing with octaves and chromatics which makes “Wes’ Tune” a must-hear for guitar enthusiasts. “Nelson’s Groove” is much faster, utilizing Brazilian afoxé and baiao rhythms which furnish a quickened pacing and intoxicating groove. “West Coast Blues” is another well-known cut from The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. Riveros’ arrangement employs a joropo, a dance style associated with Venezuela and Colombia. The jumping 6/8 tempo provides an expressive waltz-like feel. Gomez’s maracas and Walker’s drums help deliver a robust beat while Riveros showcases his fretboard creativity.

The album culminates with two more memorable tracks. Riveros’ “Facing Wes” has a blues-ish quality but isn’t technically a blues arrangement and includes a picturesque McKee bass solo as well as some of Riveros’ Montgomery-like chord changes. The concluding number is a solo nylon-string guitar interpretation of “Leila,” from Montgomeryland/Far Wes. The supple, relaxed tune—which contains a light tumbao rhythm played by Riveros on his guitar’s bass notes—nicely closes The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery in a warm and affable way.

Road Song
Tear It Down
Four on Six
Wes’ Tune
Nelson’s Groove
West Coast Blues
Facing Wes

—Doug Simpson

Riveras, Nelson-Latin Side of Wes Montgomery, Album Cover

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