Wes Montgomery – One Night In Indy [TrackList follows] – Resonance Records HCD-2018, 41:51 ****:
(Wes Montgomery – guitar; Eddie Higgins – piano; Walter Perkins – drums; bass – Unknown)
Generally the release of a previously unknown recording by guitarist Wes Montgomery, especially if he happened to be accompanied by the distinctive pianist Eddie Higgins and his Trio, would be an unabashed celebration. From a musical perspective this is probably still the case. However from a listening point of view, the results are iffy, since the sound quality is compromised by an over-recorded Higgins on a somewhat wonky piano, and softly under-recorded Montgomery as if he is a different room. Nevertheless, One Night In Indy, despite some warts, is a welcomed addition to Montgomery’s discography.
Recorded live in mono on January 18, 1959 at the “Indianapolis Jazz Club,” this brief 41:51 minute session is a look-in at the early but already recognizable Montgomery style. There are no complicated arrangements here other than a basic head structure to the numbers, starting with “Give Me The Simple Life” which is lead by Montgomery’s single-note lines framed in a mellow groove. Higgins picks up the theme with some Errol Garner-like block chords. Later on Montgomery and Higgins exchange solos in charming fashion, before they engage in some unison playing to take the tune out.
Duke Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss” is a wonderful ballad which the band executes with style and empathy. Montgomery uses his mastery of chording to set the pace for an extended solo by Higgins who really owns the number. Neal Hefti wrote “Li’L Darling” for The Count Basie Orchestra which featured a solo by trumpeter Sonny Cohn. Here the quartet uses the same time signature reading as the Basie arrangement, and it works perfectly. After the first run through of the theme, Montgomery picks up the solo in his singular single-note style, then delivers some solid comping behind Higgins as he flexes his solo muscles. The band then repeats the theme in that easy soulful approach that dominates the number.
Although Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” closes out the session, it is really just a musical trifle. The last long-form number is Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear” which the band does in captivating fashion with Higgins setting the pace (with the wonky out of tune piano in full bloom unfortunately). When Montgomery picks up the thread of the number, he does so with a long introductory quote from the Dave Raskin/Johnny Mercer number Laura, before getting back to the chordal changes required by the tune. A terrific reading of a tricky tune. Wes Montgomery was a guitarist of confident harmonic perception whose style was the gold standard for generations of musical followers.
TrackList: Give Me The Simple Life; Prelude To A Kiss; Stompin’ At The Savoy; Li’L Darling; Ruby, My Dear; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
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