Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) released his
first disc in the Fall of 1959. Recently, I heard his second
offering, “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery,”
which came out the following year under the Riverside label.
This 1991 rerelease contained eight songs, four of which
were original Montgomery compositions. Record producer Orrin
Keepnews wrote the liner notes for this disc, and disclosed
that although Wes Montgomery didn’t begin playing the guitar
until he was 19-years old, he was playing professionally
six months later.
Montgomery had an unusual method of playing, using only
his thumb. But as history has proven, it’s the results that
count. In these recording sessions, he was teamed with
a fine rhythm section, including Percy Heath of the Modern
Jazz Quartet who was joined by his brother Albert on drums.
Tommy Flanagan, who would later work with Ella Fitzgerald,
was a very sensitive pianist, and each of these musicians
were given ample opportunities to shine.
The songs played here were Jazz standards, but their
treatments were wonderfully rendered. The last song on
this disc, “Gone With the Wind,” features Montgomery playing
solos throughout that are models of taste and style.
Like other Jazz artists in later years, Wes Montgomery
would also venture into Popular music territory, and be
castigated for it by some “purists.” Personally, I have found
these later recordings to be quite enjoyable. However,
I believe that this early album is a good place to start,
because it features Montgomery in a “pure” Jazz idiom.
Regardless of his choices, he excelled at whatever music
he played, and is justly regarded as one of the supreme
Jazz instrumentalists of all time.