Wes Montgomery: SO Much Guitar!

WesMontgomery_SoMuchGuitarExpanded reissue of classic 1961 Montgomery LP

Montgomery’s fourth album for the Riverside label, recorded in 1961, finds the inimitable guitarist leading a quintet of Hank Jones, Ron Carter, Lex Humphries and Ray Barretto on a set that mixes originals (“Twisted Blues” and “Something Like Bags”) with well-selected standards. The group comes out charging hard with Montgomery picking firm and fast as the rhythm section swings with all due speed. Carter’s bass provides both rhythm and a melodic foil for the guitar, and Jones’ fleet fingers prove a good match for Montgomery’s thumb. The ballads show another fully-formed side of Montgomery’s playing, with the highly-charged percussive picking giving way to more fluid and introspective lines, such as on the unaccompanied “While We’re Young.” The mid-tempo “I’m a Lucky So and So” allows the band to swing as Montgomery explores the song’s melodic theme in his lead, finally giving way to Jones for a bluesy 32-bars. The album closes with a truly sublime reading of “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” whose drowsy tempo takes the place of Johnny Mercer’s late-night lyrics.

The album’s original eight studio tracks are augmented on the 2013 reissue by eight live recordings made with the Montgomery Brothers (Wes, Buddy and Monk) and drummer Paul Humphrey. Recorded in a Vancouver club in 1961, the sound is actually crisper than the studio tracks, and the leads are shared between Wes’ guitar and Monk’s vibraphone. These live tracks have been previously released on the compilation Groove Brothers, but they make a nice complement to this album, filling out the disc to 79 minutes. The new 10-page booklet includes Orrin Keepnews’ original liners, new notes by Marc Myers and original front- and back-cover art. As with other recent Concord reissues of the Riverside catalog, this disc features a new 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarantino. The new CD is substantially louder than the 1987 reissue, which may be why the high end sounds better articulated (which, thankfully, doesn’t make the loudest piano notes any more of a problem than on the previous CD). Whether or not the sonic changes provide an upgrade, the added live tracks are a worthwhile get. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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