So Much Guitar (CD Reissue)

Wes Montgomery

Concord Music Group, 2013

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


So Much Guitar by Wes Montgomery is one of five new titles released by the Concord Music Group in their ongoing Original Jazz Classics Remasters series.

Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) was one of the more innovative jazz guitarists of the 20th century. His use of the guitar as a main instrument, his ability to expand his sound from the exploration of single notes, and his technique of picking the strings with his thumb in a unique style all helped to expand the guitar’s place in jazz music.

His recording period can be divided into three distinct periods. His time with the Riverside label during the years from 1959-1964 was his most prolific and productive and found him leading small groups. His period with Verve (1964-1966) found him in basically an orchestral setting, complete with strings and brass. Just prior to his death, he signed with A&M and moved in a very commercial pop direction. This latest reissue is wisely taken from his Riverside period as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 So Much Guitar is one of the better, if underrated, albums of his career.

When Montgomery went into the recording studio in August of 1961, he was accompanied by pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Lex Humphries, and conga player Ray Baretto. The key was Carter, who was near the beginning of a career than continues today as one of the better bassists in jazz history. He was the perfect foil for Montgomery, as his talent on the bass pushed the guitarist to better performances.

The most interesting tracks are his two original compositions. “Twisted Blues” and “Something Like Bags” are vehicles for him to explore various chord progressions and structures. The ballads, a subtle cover of the 1940s tune “One For My Baby” and “While We’re Young,” are good examples of the interplay between Carter and Montgomery. The Duke Ellington piece, “Cotton Tail,” which in its original incarnation was a sax driven song, is moved over into a smooth jazz format with the guitar as the main instrument.

As with all the albums in the series, the sound is clear and crisp and the booklet gives a fine history of the album’s creation and music. The original liner notes are also included.

There were no outtakes from the sessions to add as bonus tracks, so the producers went in a different direction and added eight tracks that were recorded early in 1961 at The Cellar in Vancouver. It included Wes Montgomery with Buddy Montgomery on vibes, bassist Monk Montgomery, and drummer Paul Humphrey. Songs such as “Snowfall,” “This Love Of Mine,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” and “Angel Eyes” may not have the sophistication of the previous studio tracks but they are good examples of his technique and style as his guitar playing is out front. The eight performances were originally released as The Montgomery Brothers In Canada, so you are essentially getting two albums for the price of one.

So Much Guitar was a pivotal album in the career of Wes Montgomery and is an essential listen for any fan of his or of the jazz guitar.

Rating: B+

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