Wes Montgomery – Echoes of Indiana Ave – Resonance Records HCD 2011 – 1957-1958 (all tracks previously unreleased), 52:48 [3/6/12] ****½:
(Wes Montgomery, electric guitar; Monk Montgomery, bass (#3); Buddy Montgomery, piano (#3); Mingo Jones, bass (#6-9); Earl Van Riper, piano (#6-9); Sonny Johnson, drums (#6-8); Mel Rhyne, piano (#1 &4) and Hammond B-3 organ (#2 & 5); Paul Parker, drums (#1, 2, 4 & 5))
The upcoming release of Echoes of Indiana Avenue by Resonance Records on March 6 will be a momentous occasion for many reasons. It is the first full album of previously unheard Wes Montgomery music since 1968. It’s composed of the earliest known recordings of Wes as a leader. Featuring live and studio recordings from Indianapolis, Wes’ home town, it features Wes before he signed his first recording contract with Pacific Jazz. After the Pacific Jazz albums in 1958 and 1959, Montgomery’s career skyrocketed with Riverside Records, Verve, and A & M, before he tragically died at age 43 from a heart attack on June 15, 1968, just a brief decade after these tracks were recorded.
When the nine tracks featured here were found, they had been transferred digitally in 1990, and sold to Michael Cuscuna, the noted Blue Note Records executive and jazz historian. Michael negotiated their issuance with the estate of Montgomery and passed them on to Zev Feldman of Resonance Records. Further sound restoration and remastering was done by George Klabin of Resonance, and Fran Gala.
Adding to the value of this historical release are essays by Cuscuna, Dan Morgenstern, Pat Martino, Wes’ brothers, Monk and Buddy, and noted jazz critic, Bill Milkowski. In the digi-pak release is a 22 page booklet with family photographs. Soon there will also be a 2-LP set with mastering by Bernie Grundman on 180 gr. vinyl recorded at 45 rpm. [Unusual for an archive recording like this…Ed.] The street date release is on Wes Montgomery’s birthday.
It took Resonance two years to research the musicians, and recording locations and dates. Though they are not 100% certain of the accuracy of the personnel on each track, their interviews with musicians still alive and music scholars have helped Resonance feel confident that these nine tracks on Echoes have major historical significance.
Wes Montgomery was a self-taught guitarist who could not read music but had a brilliant ear for picking up jazz repertory. He was noted to play the melody line in two different registers at the same time, and became famous for his octave playing and having a unique mellow sound. He is most famous as a jazz guitarist for his later merging of jazz with pop tunes.
Echoes opens up with “Diablo’s Dance,” written by Shorty Rogers. It has a Latin flavor, and drummer Paul Parker shows impressive brush work. Mel Rhyne (who is still active today and noted more for his Hammond B-3 work) is on piano here, and makes this track a strong feature for his piano prowess. His unison playing with Wes is striking.
“Round Midnight” is done mostly as a duet with Wes and Mel (here on Hammond). It has a moody, relaxed late night vibe and Wes’ single note lines coupled with Rhyne’s B-3 choruses makes it a memorable track. The sole track with the entire Montgomery Brothers, Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” is done up tempo. It is given a straight bop reading matched with Wes’ bluesy solos. Buddy shows his bop credentials while Wes comps with chords. Monk Montgomery’s walking bass solo brings to mind another fellow Indiana native, Leroy Vinnegar.
“Nica’s Dream,” written by Horace Silver, has a Latin touch, and Mel Rhyne again shines on piano, while Wes goes on a tear mid track. “Darn That Dream” is presented as a Hammond B-3 ballad, and the blend of Rhyne with Wes is sumptuous. It is one of the highlights of Echoes. Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train” begins the “live” final four tracks. Earl Van Riper turns in a moving blues piano solo while Wes burns, combining in intensity single note runs, octaves and chord melodies.
Errol Garner’s classic “Misty” is done very straight ahead and is more a feature for Van Riper than for Wes. This track was reportedly recorded at the Hub Bub Club, one of the noted 1950s clubs found in the Indiana Ave. area of town, where jazz was featured nightly, including after-hours clubs.
“Body and Soul” is next and is all about Wes and his virtuosic playing. His fret board playing is dazzling. A very special treat is found at the end of Echoes of Indiana Avenue. It is titled “After Hours Blues,” and features Wes playing straight blues guitar, and it blends Chicago electric blues with a Chuck Berry spin. Earl Van Piper has a down and funky piano solo as well. From a jazz guitar genius noted for his mellow sound, it is quite cool to hear Wes’ take on a funky electric blues that would be equally at home five hours north in Chicago.
Mark March 6th on your calendar. Celebrate Wes Montgomery’s birthday with the purchase of this historical release. It is sure to be a collector’s item for jazz guitar fans.
TrackList: Diablo’s Dance, Round Midnight, Straight No Chaser, Nica’s Dream, Darn That Dream, Take the A Train, Misty, Body and Soul, After Hours Blues
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered live vinyl of a great tenor saxophonist.