Among jazz guitar aficionados there are few whose playing is as esteemed as that of the late Wes Montgomery (1925-1968). Although he was a clean man, and never succumbed to the many vices available to jazz musicians, Montgomery’s heart gave out at the early age of 43. Sadly, he was just hitting his prime, both commercially and creatively. The melodic sound he brought to jazz with his smooth playing was an inspiration to an entire generation of guitarists.
Resonance Records has just released Echoes of Indiana Avenue by Wes Montgomery, and it will be a must for his fans. These previously unreleased tapes were discovered back in 1990, and were digitally transferred for preservation. They sat in the owner’s archives until 2008 however, until a deal was cut to finally release them. Although the owner had the foresight to transfer the decaying masters to the digital medium, there was still a great deal of work to be done in remastering them for release.
Resonance has done an excellent job with this, for the music sounds great. The tapes were recorded prior to Montgomery’s debut recording for the Riverside label in 1959. It is believed that these tapes were recorded as something of a demo in 1957 and 1958, to secure a record deal for him. A lot of research was needed for the project, to discover who the sidemen on the various nine tracks are. Fortunately, the folks at Resonance were up to the task, and according to the liner notes, “Have made our best efforts to properly identify the musicians, locations, and years from speaking with various musicians, scholars, and experts.”
One thing is certain, Wes Montgomery’s singular style was already well developed by the time these recordings were made. Among the seven sidemen identified as playing are Montgomery’s two brothers, Buddy (piano) and Monk (bass).
Speaking of Monk, (Theolonius that is), he was clearly a favorite of Wes’ at the time. Two of his fifties classics are played here, “’Round Midnight,” and “Straight No Chaser.” Some of the other standards on the set are “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Misty,” and “Body and Soul.” Wes Montgomery brings a wonderful and lyrical sound to these songs, and really makes them his own. His talent is undeniable, and it was there right from the beginning.
My personal favorite is the final track, an improvisation titled “After Hours Blues.” It was obviously recorded in a nightclub, and is a cool blues which allows for some great contributions from the assembled players. “After Hours Blues” is the perfect capper to Echoes of Indiana Avenue. For Wes Montgomery fans, the release of this set is a cause for celebration, and shows that the talent of this jazz guitar pioneer was already firmly in place long before he ever “officially“ recorded.