Wes Montgomery/ Wynton Kelly Trio – Maximum Swing – Resonance Records

by | Nov 23, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Wes Montgomery lets loose on NYC live dates from 1965…

Wes Montgomery/ Wynton Kelly Trio – Maximum Swing: The Unissued 1965 Half Note Recordings (Record Store Day Black Friday Release) – 3 LP audiophile vinyl – Resonance Records #HLP 9067 – 1965 – ****

(Wes Montgomery – electric guitar; Wynton Kelly – piano; Jimmy Cobb – drums; Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Herman Wright, or Larry Ridley – bass)

For their 7th release of Wes Montgomery’s previously unissued recordings, the boutique label, Resonance Records, has upped the ante with over two hours of live recordings from the Half Note (NYC) jazz club, featuring a dream combo of Wes, with pianist, Wynton Kelly; drummer Jimmy Cobb, and a variety of top notch bassists over a six month period in mid to late 1965.

Remastered by the legendary engineer, Bernie Grundman, onto three 180 gm audiophile vinyls, this is a great opportunity to hear Montgomery stretching out on straight ahead jazz material, highlighting his melodic and harmonic skills with clear articulation. Wes was a master guitarist, noted for his thumb picking and use of octaves. 

Taken away from the rigors of studio recording, and the opportunity to avoid his label’s concentration on recording pop hits, Montgomery could freely improvise on long solos, with block chord melodies, backed by a sympathetic trio of jazz veterans. Pianist, Wynton Kelly, was a great blues piano player, and with Wes’ background in rhythm and blues, they make a great pair. Both Wynton and drummer, Jimmy Cobb, had been with Miles Davis, as were bassists, Ron Carter, and Paul Chambers. When these two bass giants were not available, Herman Wright, or Larry Ridley, stepped in.

These Half Note live dates happened three months after Wes and Wynton’s June, 1965 dates at the club, that were issued on Verve Records (Smokin’ at the Half Note), and were mostly recorded for radio broadcast for the WABC-FM show, Portraits in Jazz, hosted by DJ, Alan Grant. It’s a kick nearly seven decades later to hear Grant’s attempts to appear “hip” in his brief interludes on air, which are kept as song intros here.

Wes was heavily influenced by early jazz guitar legend, Charlie Christian. Montgomery was largely rigorously self taught, and continued to work as a welder on day jobs while supporting his large family in Indianapolis. He had a fear of flying and early in his career, as a sideman with Lionel Hampton, he drove to gigs, while the rest of the band flew. 

Wes, along with his brothers, Buddy and Monk, toured as The Mastersounds. He recorded for Fantasy Records, before being signed on to Verve Records. There under producer, Creed Taylor, Wes was encouraged to use his skills to re-imagine pop records of the day. His album, Movin’ Wes, sold 100,000 copies, putting his guitar skills out to the listening public.

Here on this 3 LP set, Montgomery concentrates on jazz standards. Japanese jazz discographer unearthed five, mostly extended, tracks, presented on the second and third LP, exact dates unknown, but recorded live (with bassist Larry Ridley) in late 1965. (Wes died of a heart attack less than three years later on June 15, 1968, at age 45.)

Highlights of this set include, “Birk’s Works,” on which Wes has a five minute solo; a hard driving, “Four on Six,” with brilliant chord soloing, and use of octaves; and “All the Things You Are,” with a fiery Jimmy Cobb solo, and Montgomery’s eight choruses of guitar soloing. “Cherokee” has Wes happily “trading eights” with Jimmy and Wynton. There are also extended versions of “The Song is You,” and “Star Eyes.”

This 3 LP set will be pressed on only 4000 copies for this years Record Store Day promotion. A word to the wise – fans of Mr. Montgomery might want to get up extra early on November 24th…

—Jeff Krow

Maximum Swing

LP 1/ Side A:
Laura (6:57)
Caribo (8:47)
Blues (3:19)

LP 1/Side B:
Impressions (6:04)
Mi Cosa (3:33)
No Blues (5:39)

LP 2/Side C:
Birk’s Works (5:56)
Four on Six (8:25)
The Theme (1:34)

LP 2/Side D:
All the Things You Are (6:41)
I Remember You (7:11)
No Blues (2:44)
Cherokee (10:39)

LP 3/Side E:
The Song is You (16:18)
Four on Six (10:45)

LP3/Side F:
Star Eyes (15:31)
Oh, You Crazy Moon (4:27)

More information through Record Store Day

Logo Record Store Day

Album Cover for Wes Montgomer - Wynton Kelly Trio

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01