Song:West Coast Blues
Album:Ultimate Wes Montgomery
Despite his premature death, Wes Montgomery is one of the most influential jazz guitarists. Most current guitarists credit Montgomery as an influence. The only thing is some jazz fans prefer his early recordings on Riverside and others prefer his more commercial recordings on Verve. He was born John Leslie Montgomery Mar. 6, 1923 in Indianapolis. Wes is a childhood nickname. His brothers were also jazz musicians. Monk Montgomery played bass and Buddy Montgomery played vibes and piano. They recorded as The Montgomery Brothers in the 50s. Wes Montgomery's main influence and idol was Benny Goodman guitarist Charlie Christian. His ability to play Christian's solos note for note got him his first professional job with Lionel Hampton. All three Montgomery brothers worked as sidemen before first recording as The Montgomery Brothers in 1955. Wes Montgomery signed as a solo artist with Riverside Records in 1958. West Coast Blues was first recorded on the 1960 album The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery with Tommy Flanagan on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Albert Heath on drums. Montgomery also recorded West Coast Blues on the 1960 Harold Land album West Coast Blues!. Montgomery moved to Verve Records in 1964. His recordings at Verve with producer Creed Taylor became more elaborate with strings and horns. Riverside producer Orrin Keepnews preferred straight ahead jazz. Critics complained that Montgomery had changed. I don't think his playing style changed. He was just working with a different producer with a different philosophy. Montgomery recorded West Coast Blues on his 1964 Verve debut Movin' Wes. It was a much larger band with horns arranged by Johnny Pate. It was his biggest selling album to date. When Don Sebesky became Montgomery's arranger, he added strings. So clearly Taylor and Sebesky were taking Montgomery farther from jazz. This continued when Taylor moved from Verve to A & M in 1967 and took Montgomery with him. There's no doubt Montgomery's success would have continued but he died of a heart attack on June 15, 1968 at age 45. It hasn't changed his influence on other guitarists. Guys like Pat Metheny, George Benson and Lee Ritenour credit Montgomery as a big influence. This budget CD Ultimate Wes Montgomery is a selection of his Verve recordings chosen by George Benson. The 2012 CD The Very Best of Wes Montgomery is a comp of his Riverside recordings. Both CDs are recommended to beginners. Here's Wes Montgomery with Martial Solal on piano, Michel Gaudry on bass, Ronnie Stephenson on drums and Hans Koller, Johnny Griffin, Ronnie Scott and Ronnie Ross on saxes performing West Coast Blues on the German TV show Jazz Workshop Apr. 30, 1965. This was released on CD by an Italian label but it is out of print.