The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery (CD Reissue)

Wes Montgomery

Keepnews Collection, 2008

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Wes Montgomery (1925-1968) was one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century. He took the swing sound of Charlie Christian and the gypsy jazz styling of Django Reinhardt and combined them into a unique American jazz sound. His early work influenced the two generations of jazz guitarists that followed him.

Wes Montgomery went through a number of incarnations during his career. He is best remembered today for his hugely popular jazz/pop albums recorded for the A&M label in the mid to late 1960’s. This group of late career releases found Montgomery adjusting his sound for the masses and adding a more orchestral background. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery, from early in his career, has Montgomery exploring the classic jazz idiom within a small group setting. He is joined by Tommy Flanagan (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Albert Heath (drums).

This was the album that set Wes Montgomery apart from other guitarists. He had a unique approach to phasing, and legend has it that his thumbs were double jointed and could actually bend back and touch his wrist. This enabled Montgomery to develop a technical virtuosity that allowed the notes to be distinct from each other. He was also able to maintain a fairly melodic sound, which was different from many of the other jazz practitioners of his day.

This CD release of The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery was re-mastered from the original tapes. The original cover art and liner notes are intact as well. Also included is a substantive biography of Montgomery’s career, which altogether combines into a ‘60s looking package with a modern sound.

“Four On Six” and “Polka Dots To Moonbeams” were breakthrough songs, as they popularized the use of octaves on the guitar. His flow from chords to octaves was unique, as was his blending of instruments. “D-Natural Blues” showed Montgomery’s ability to match his sound to the piano and trade leads, while his rendition of “Gone With The Wind” is guitar playing at its best. It is always interesting to compare his version to Dave Brubeck’s classic piano interpretation.

The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery was a seminal album in the creation of the guitar sound and he simultaneously modernized jazz through the use of his guitar. Artists who have followed him may have been able to polish and add nuances to the sound, but none have had the same lasting creative impact as Wes Montgomery.

Rating: A

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© 2008 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Keepnews Collection, and is used for informational purposes only.