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Jazz - Released November 24, 2017 | Resonance Records

Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Saturday, March 27, 1965. The man who takes the Parisian concert venue by storm does it with delicacy and cool. His playing has however revolutionized his instrument, in a violent way even… Since Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt, guitar hadn’t been abused this way. Especially since here, the instigator of this tsunami both stylistic and formal performs in a configuration that resembles him, without ornamentation, nor commercial decoration. The Wes Montgomery from this unprecedented live performance is frightening and especially great, it is also extremely sophisticated… Surrounded by pianist Harold Mabern, double bass player Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace, the guitarist from Indianapolis finds the perfect balance between his extraordinary skills (to die for on To Wane, a theme penned by Mabern in tribute to Wayne Shorter) and the great originality of his melodic approach. On Full House, ‘Round Midnight and Blue 'N Boogie/West Coast Blues, Wes even welcomes tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, in order to make the party even more memorable. As for the repertoire, he revisits themes from his studio albums for the label Riverside (Jingles, 'Round Midnight, Twisted Blues…), but of which he gives here deeper interpretations. It’s a recording that is as much intended for the guy’s aficionados as for the novices wanting to grasp the art of a great colorist that is gone far too soon, in 1968 at only 45… © MZ/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2010 | Original Jazz Classics

Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
Before he moved away from straight-ahead jazz and starting playing what is now known as smooth jazz, Wes Montgomery was one of bop's finest guitarists. Montgomery's bop period ended much too soon, but thankfully, he recorded his share of rewarding bop albums when he was still bop-oriented -- and one of them is Boss Guitar, which Orrin Keepnews produced in 1963. It's a trio recording, employing Mel Rhyne on organ and Jimmy Cobb on performances that have held up well over time; Montgomery shows how expressive a ballad player he could be on the standards "For Heaven's Sake" and "Days of Wine and Roses," but the fast tempo exuberance of "The Trick Bag" (a Montgomery original) serves him equally well. Montgomery swings the blues with pleasing results on "Fried Pies" (another Montgomery original), while Consuelo Velázquez's "Besame Mucho" (which is usually played at a slow ballad tempo) is successfully transformed into medium-tempo Latin jazz. Boss Guitar is among the bop-oriented Montgomery albums that should continue to be savored after all these years. [In addition to the eight master takes that were heard on the original '60s LP, some reissues contain alternate takes of "Besame Mucho," "The Trick Bag," and "Fried Pies" -- all of which will interest collectors.] © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released October 13, 2017 | Riverside

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On The Wes Montgomery Trio – A Dynamic New Sound: Guitar Organ Drums, his third album which appeared on Riverside Records in 1959, Wes Montgomery confirmed that it was he who caused the earth to tremble with his jazz guitar. And this superb disc cements his name just that bit more in amongst those of the greats. He is joined by Melvin Rhyne on the organ and Paul Parker on the drums adding a simple accompaniment, without ever treading on his toes nor attracting too much attention. Because of course, the hero of these sessions produced on 5th and 6th October 1959, at Reeves Sound Studios in New York, by Orin Keepnews, will always be Wes Montgomery and no one but Wes Montgomery! His style, virtuosic and soaked with the blues, brought a fresh sound to this instrument that was previously dominated by Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow. And in his solos such as ‘Round Midnight, the guitarist from Indianapolis slickly unfurls his refined sound, his unique style and his enchanting phrasing. A few months later, with The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, still with Riverside Records, the affair would take on a whole new look thanks to Tommy Flanagan, Percy Heath and Albert "Tootie" Heath, sidemen of a higher calibre… © MD/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released June 27, 2000 | Verve Reissues

As part of the Finest Hour series from Verve, guitarist Wes Montgomery is spotlighted on 16 tracks recorded between 1964 and his death in 1968. These sessions highlight the widely accepted jazz-pop combination he achieved on these Verve and A&M releases, which followed a four-year stint on Riverside where he attracted a limited, mainly jazz audience. The guitarist employed a winning formula that combined his straight-ahead jazz style while exploring current trends in pop music that encompassed Latin, funk, and string-laden arrangements. The impressive coverage of guest musicians includes Herbie Hancock, Ray Barretto, Ron Carter, Jimmy Smith, and Clark Terry. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Riverside

The incredible Wes Montgomery of 1960 was more discernible and distinctive than the guitarist who would emerge a few years later as a pop stylist and precursor to George Benson in the '70s. On this landmark recording, Montgomery veered away from his home Indianapolis-based organ combo with Melvin Rhyne, the California-based Montgomery Brothers band, and other studio sidemen he had been placed with briefly. Off to New York City and a date with Tommy Flanagan's trio, Montgomery seems in his post- to hard bop element, swinging fluently with purpose, drive, and vigor not heard in an electric guitarist since bop progenitor Charlie Christian. Setting him apart from the rest, this recording established Montgomery as the most formidable modern guitarist of the era, and eventually its most influential. There's some classic material here, including the cat-quick but perhaps a trifle anxious version of the Sonny Rollins bop evergreen "Airegin," the famous repeated modal progressive and hard bop jam "Four on Six," and Montgomery's immortal soul waltz "West Coast Blues," effortlessly rendered with its memorable melody and flowing, elegant chiffon-like lines. Flanagan, at a time shortly after leaving his native Detroit, is the perfect pianist for this session. He plays forcefully but never overtly so on the bop tracks, offering up his trademark delicacy on the laid-back "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and easy-as-pie "Gone with the Wind." With the dynamic Philadelphia rhythm section of brothers Percy Heath on bass and drummer Albert Heath, they play a healthy Latin beat on the choppy and dramatic melody of Montgomery's original "Mr. Walker." Montgomery is clearly talented beyond convention, consistently brilliant, and indeed incredible in the company of his sidemen, and this recording -- an essential addition to every jazz guitarist fan's collection -- put him on the map. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1988 | Fantasy Records

Because it was recorded between two of Wes Montgomery's best-known albums (Incredible Jazz Guitar and So Much Guitar), this particular LP is a bit underrated. The great guitarist is teamed with flutist James Clay (who switches to tenor on Montgomery's "So Do It!"), pianist Victor Feldman, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Louis Hayes for four standards (highlighted by Clifford Brown's "Sandu" and "Body and Soul"), Sam Jones' "Says You," and two Montgomery originals. This is an often overlooked gem. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1967 | A&M

By the time Wes Montgomery recorded this album (his debut for A&M), he was a major name in the pop world. Montgomery's melodic renditions of current pop hits caught on and were played regularly on Top 40 radio. In most cases the guitarist did little more than play the melody, using his distinctive octaves, and it was enough to make him saleable. Of his three A&M recordings, A Day in the Life (the first one) was by far the best and, although the jazz content is almost nil, the results are pleasing as background music. "Windy" was a bit of a hit; the other selections (which find Montgomery backed by muzaky strings arranged by Don Sebesky) include "Watch What Happens," "California Nights," "Eleanor Rigby" and the title cut. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 21, 2019 | Resonance Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1986 | Verve

Wes Montgomery's last album for Verve (other than an exciting collaboration with Jimmy Smith) is a so-so orchestral date featuring arrangements by Don Sebesky. The material (which includes "Sunny" and "California Dreaming") is strictly pop fluff of the era and the great guitarist has little opportunity to do much other than state the melody in his trademark octaves. This record was perfect for AM radio of the period. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Riverside

While even label executive Orrin Keepnews admits that The Wes Montgomery Trio may have fallen short of representing Montgomery's talent, he still felt that this debut captured a large portion of it. Recorded on October 5 and 6 in 1959, guitarist Montgomery is joined by organist Melvin Rhyne and drummer Paul Parker. Montgomery's style, block chords and octaves, is already firmly in place, and he delivers lovely solos on "'Round Midnight," "Whisper Not," and "Satin Doll." The choice of material, in fact, from classics like "Yesterdays" to originals like Montgomery's "Jingles," never falters. The only drawback is that the accompaniment, which though solid, doesn't seem to perfectly match his guitar style. One gets the impression that Montgomery's forceful, deliberate style would be better-served by beefier arrangements. Having said this, Montgomery's performance -- coming at the end of a decade represented by guitarists like Tal Farlow and Barney Kessel -- must have been a revolution in technique and execution. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a 36-year-old guitarist re-imagines the jazz guitar solo. There are two bonus tracks on The Wes Montgomery Trio: extra takes of "Satin Doll" and "Missile Blues." Although later Riverside recordings of Montgomery are more fully realized, fans will enjoy returning to the moment when he first burst upon the jazz scene. © Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. /TiVo
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Jazz - Released December 3, 1966 | Verve Reissues

On two of the songs included on Tequila, "Tequila" and "The Thumb," Wes Montgomery had an opportunity to jam a bit while backed just by bassist Ron Carter, drummer Grady Tate and the congas of Ray Barretto. The other six selections utilize a string section arranged by Claus Ogerman but, even with a throwaway version of "What the World Needs Now Is Love," there are memorable renditions of "Bumpin' on Sunset" and "Insensatez" that uplift this album quite a bit beyond the guitarist's later A&M recordings. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 19, 2019 | Resonance Records

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Jazz - Released September 27, 2011 | Verve Reissues

All eight of the albums Wes Montgomery issued on Verve in the mid-'60s (including the two he did with organist Jimmy Smith) are on this limited-edition, five-CD box set. With the addition of 20 bonus tracks (none previously unreleased, some of them alternate takes or overdubbed versions) and a 76-page booklet that includes readable reproductions of the original LP sleeves, it's the definitive compilation of his work for the label. By its very size, of course, its appeal might be limited to completists and serious collectors. But its no-stone-unturned thoroughness can't be faulted, and it sensitively separates the purest straight-ahead jazz material (all of the cuts recorded in 1965 for Smokin' at the Half Note) onto one CD, as well as placing the Montgomery-Smith albums so that they're heard in succession on the last half of disc four and the first half of disc five. Montgomery's Verve period is the source of some contention among critics and fans. Numerous jazz authorities are of the opinion that Wes by far did his finest work when he operated with standard, straight-ahead small jazz groups early in his recording career, and declined substantially when he moved to Verve, primarily owing to increasingly commercial material and orchestrated arrangements. Most listeners with some open-mindedness, however, will find at least some material here to value -- not just the all-out straight jazz sessions on Smokin' at the Half Note, but also on the cuts with more pop-oriented backing. First, it should be pointed out that the pop and rock covers for which Montgomery's Verve releases are most often derided -- particularly "Goin' Out of My Head" and "California Dreaming" -- are a fairly small minority of the songs he recorded for the label. Of more importance, the combination of Montgomery's always excellent guitar playing with orchestrated arrangements (variously by Johnny Pate, Don Sebesky, Oliver Nelson, and Claus Ogerman) actually works well much of the time. At its best, the blend achieves a cinematic sense of drama, as well as a form of jazz that many more pop-oriented listeners will find more accessible than much of conventional jazz. That also means, of course, that a good number of jazz specialists will find that material unpalatable, and there are some tracks where the embellishments verge upon becoming too sweet and middle of the road. But there are at least as many such cuts that even jazzheads should enjoy, both for Montgomery's playing and the effective, and at times adventurous addition of big-band elements. Quite a few tracks, in fact, are downright excellent. Standouts include the Montgomery-Smith recording "13 (Death March)"; the superb soul-jazz of another Montgomery-Smith highlight, "O.G.D. (aka Road Song)"; the simmering groove of "Bumpin' on Sunset"; or the unfettered, bluesy strut "Just Walkin'." Ultimately, Montgomery's Verve output must be considered more a success than a failure, and more worthy than embarrassing. And while his shifting approaches ensures that almost everyone will find this box an inconsistent listen, it's ultimately quite a worthy collection of a notable period in his career. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1997 | Verve

Wes Montgomery's debut for Verve, although better from a jazz standpoint than his later A&M releases, is certainly in the same vein. The emphasis is on his tone, his distinctive octaves, and his melody statements. Some of the material (such as "People" and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker") are pop tunes of the era and the brass orchestra (arranged by Johnny Pate) is purely in the background, but there are some worthy performances, chiefly the two-part "Movin' Wes," "Born to Be Blue," and "West Coast Blues." © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 13, 2017 | Riverside

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On The Wes Montgomery Trio – A Dynamic New Sound: Guitar Organ Drums, his third album which appeared on Riverside Records in 1959, Wes Montgomery confirmed that it was he who caused the earth to tremble with his jazz guitar. And this superb disc cements his name just that bit more in amongst those of the greats. He is joined by Melvin Rhyne on the organ and Paul Parker on the drums adding a simple accompaniment, without ever treading on his toes nor attracting too much attention. Because of course, the hero of these sessions produced on 5th and 6th October 1959, at Reeves Sound Studios in New York, by Orin Keepnews, will always be Wes Montgomery and no one but Wes Montgomery! His style, virtuosic and soaked with the blues, brought a fresh sound to this instrument that was previously dominated by Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow. And in his solos such as ‘Round Midnight, the guitarist from Indianapolis slickly unfurls his refined sound, his unique style and his enchanting phrasing. A few months later, with The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, still with Riverside Records, the affair would take on a whole new look thanks to Tommy Flanagan, Percy Heath and Albert "Tootie" Heath, sidemen of a higher calibre… © MD/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Fantasy Records

The incredible Wes Montgomery of 1960 was more discernible and distinctive than the guitarist who would emerge a few years later as a pop stylist and precursor to George Benson in the '70s. On this landmark recording, Montgomery veered away from his home Indianapolis-based organ combo with Melvin Rhyne, the California-based Montgomery Brothers band, and other studio sidemen he had been placed with briefly. Off to New York City and a date with Tommy Flanagan's trio, Montgomery seems in his post- to hard bop element, swinging fluently with purpose, drive, and vigor not heard in an electric guitarist since bop progenitor Charlie Christian. Setting him apart from the rest, this recording established Montgomery as the most formidable modern guitarist of the era, and eventually its most influential. There's some classic material here, including the cat-quick but perhaps a trifle anxious version of the Sonny Rollins bop evergreen "Airegin," the famous repeated modal progressive and hard bop jam "Four on Six," and Montgomery's immortal soul waltz "West Coast Blues," effortlessly rendered with its memorable melody and flowing, elegant chiffon-like lines. Flanagan, at a time shortly after leaving his native Detroit, is the perfect pianist for this session. He plays forcefully but never overtly so on the bop tracks, offering up his trademark delicacy on the laid-back "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and easy-as-pie "Gone with the Wind." With the dynamic Philadelphia rhythm section of brothers Percy Heath on bass and drummer Albert Heath, they play a healthy Latin beat on the choppy and dramatic melody of Montgomery's original "Mr. Walker." Montgomery is clearly talented beyond convention, consistently brilliant, and indeed incredible in the company of his sidemen, and this recording -- an essential addition to every jazz guitarist fan's collection -- put him on the map. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Concord Jazz

One of Wes Montgomery's finest recordings, a Riverside date that showcases the influential guitarist in a quintet with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Lex Humphries, and the congas of Ray Barretto. All eight performances are memorable in their own way, with "Cottontail," "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," and a brief unaccompanied "While We're Young" being high points. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Riverside

A casual peruser of conventional jazz wisdom might guess that a Wes Montgomery Plays for Lovers album would surely draw from Universal's A&M and/or Verve holdings. But no, this compilation is part of Concord's look-alike series of that name. Thus, these are Riverside sides from the first few years of Montgomery's recording career, and besides providing a soundtrack for a romantic evening, they prove that Wes Montgomery's taste for a tender ballad -- with the tunes often stated in his patented octaves -- was always there practically from the beginning. Concord didn't have to strain as it gathered material to support this concept, drawing from nine of Montgomery's Riverside albums and finding ballads in all. "Prelude to a Kiss" and "All the Way" come from that premonition of future commercial enterprises, Fusion!, where the romantic mood is a given and Jimmy Jones' charts make a small orchestra sound lusher than its numbers would indicate. Some of the great guitarist's collaborations with other notables also populate this collection. "Stairway to the Stars" features the voluble Milt Jackson on vibes, with Montgomery playing gentle octaves in the center. "If I Should Lose You" has Montgomery Brothers Monk (bass) and Buddy (piano) backing Wes, who is always mellow and songful, and he and his brothers fit right into the George Shearing sound in the sole midtempo track on the CD, "Darn That Dream." Full House, the sole (and celebrated) live album of Montgomery's Riverside period, is represented by "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," where he does little more than tenderly state the tune. The album closes with Montgomery's only recorded a cappella solo track, "While We're Young," whose ultra-mellow mood underplays even the most understated ballads in the rest of the package. By no means should this be your only Wes Montgomery Riverside album, nor is it the best-paced Montgomery anthology out there. But those who cotton to his quiet ballad side ought to find a lot of concentrated pleasure. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1966 | Verve Reissues

Creed Taylor matched two of his most famous artists, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, on this session (Montgomery's last for Verve), and the results are incendiary -- a near-ideal meeting of yin and yang. Smith comes at your throat with his big attacks and blues runs while Montgomery responds with rounder, smoother octaves and single notes that still convey much heat. They are an amazing pair, complementing each other, driving each other, using their bop and blues taproots to fuse together a sound. The romping, aggressive big band charts -- Oliver Nelson at his best -- on "Down by the Riverside" and "Night Train," and the pungently haunting chart for Gary McFarland's "13" (Death March)" still leave plenty of room for the soloists to stretch out. "James and Wes" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" include drummer Grady Tate and conguero Ray Barretto, with Smith's own feet working the organ pedals. The Verve Master Edition reissue also includes an alternate take of "O.G.D." with Tate and Barretto, a track previously surfacing on a long-gone Encyclopedia of Jazz anthology LP from the '60s -- a neat bonus that makes this the preferred version. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo