Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wynton & Wes at the Half Note...

Wes Montgomery, along with Barney Kessell, Grant Green, Jimmy Raney and Kenny Burrell, was the link between the pioneer guitarists Charlie Christian, Eddie Lang, Lonnie Johnson and the modern guitarists John McLaughlin, John Abercrombie, James Blood Ulmer, Sonny Sharrock. Montgomery began as a distinctive hard bop player employing his signature double octave single note lines. His reputation grew tarnished because of the series of records he made for the CTI label. Producer Creed Taylor – the architect of the label - created an identifiable sound: lush orchestration, instrumental versions of contemporary pop songs and pretty covers. For the most part, the music was safe and sweet and huge sellers.

But those early records…

My first experience with the music of Wes Montgomery was his album The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. I enjoyed it immensely so I decided I had to hear more. The album that did it for me was Full House. It’s a live album that assembles Montgomery, tenor player Johnny Griffin and Miles Davis’ rhythm section at Tsubo’s, a club in California.

The two 1965 concerts offered up – one from September here and one from December here, both recorded at the Half Note. Both of these shows were in support of his recent album record Live at the Half Note.

Along with Wes Montgomery is pianist Wynton Kelly. They co-led the Verve record and co-lead these two gigs. Kelly was the pianist of choice for Miles Davis’ on the Live at the Black Hawk recordings and was the pianist Davis purportedly dumped for Bill Evans on Kind of Blue. Kelly has a deep feeling for the blues and it oozes from his playing. He made several wonderful recordings. And, oh yeah, Wynton Marsalis was named after him…

For the December gig (Dec. 11, 1965) the line-up for the Wynton Kelly Trio with Wes Montgomery is: Wynton Kelly - Piano; Larry Ridley - Bass; Jimmy Cobb - Drums; Wes Montgomery - Guitar (on tracks 3-5) The playlist goes like this:

1. Blue and Boogie
2. If You Could See Me Now
3. There Is No Greater Love
4. Birk's Works
5. Four on Six

For the September gig (Sept. 24, 1965), the lien-up for the Wynton Kelly Trio with Wes Montgomery is: Wynton Kelly - Piano; Paul Chambers - Bass; Jimmy Cobb - Drums; Wes Montgomery - Guitar (on tracks 5-6). The playlist is:

1. Blues Blues
2. Old Folks
3. Milestones
4. Laura
5. Cariba
6. Blues (Bb)
Both concerts are rather short and are culled from radio broadcasts from ABC radio.

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