Artist: Wes Montgomery
Album: In the Beginning
Label: Resonance Records
Release Date: 05/12/15
The name Wes Montgomery rings a big bell among guitar aficionados for his flair and style that defined jazz guitar in the post-bebop era. A Charlie Christian aficionado, Montgomery played in the bands of Lionel Hampton and John Coltrane, and influenced scores of major players from George Benson to Pat Metheny to Jimi Hendrix. His intricacy and effortless beauty resounds throughout In the Beginning.
These seldom-heard recordings were captured live in a variety of nightclubs between 1949 and 1958, Montgomery leading his own crack combo and thrilling patrons with passionate plays of Ellington, Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Henry Mancini, and even Miles Davis, and more. Although they’re amateur recordings, the audio is so clear and vibrant you can hear the excited chatter and glasses clinking at the cocktail tables as if present. But none of that detracts from the music. Everything from sophistication to funk sounds natural by these men. The rush of “After You’re Gone,” exotic nature of “Caravan,” hot jazz in “Django,” multifaceted and compelling “Fascinating Rhythm,” and the elegance of “Six Bridges to Cross” belong together. Guitarists of this era stretched the boundaries and thus truly gave voice to their instrument. Wes Montgomery was pure class, even as he played like a madman.