Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wes Montgomery Echoes of Indiana Avenue

Resonance Records, which last year issued a live Freddie Hubbard recording for the first time, has just issued an important historical recording by the great guitarist, Wes Montgomey, “Echoes of Indiana Avenue.” In a handsomely hard digipac package, Resonance has acquired the rights to the nine performances issued on this that date from 1957-1958 and include four studio performances and five live performances. Michael Cuscuna, among the contributors to the booklet with background on these recordings, Wes and the Indianapolis Jazz scene of the time, suggests these may have been originally recorded in order to help Wes secure a record deal with Pacific Jazz, although it was in 1959 when cannonball Adderly saw Wes and recommended him to Riverside Records that his place as a major jazz guitarist and innovator would be established.

Musically one can hear the elements of his music including his touch, mix of single notes and chords, the use of octaves and his indelible swing. We can contrast his delicate playing on “Darn That Dream” with driving, hard bop playing on “Straight No Chaser,’ with brother Buddy on the piano. Mixing his fluidity with a fertile musical imagination this live performance exhibits the same qualities that would dazzle in a couple years hence with his Riverside releases.

Shorty Rogers’ “Diablo’s Dance,” is a lively, latin-tinged number which starts in a light, swinging fashion until about 1:30 into the performance when Wes takes off, with a piano solo from Melvin Rhyne which is not as dazzling as Montgomery is. Rhyne is heard on organ on the moody “Round Midnight,” with Monk spare, evocative playing delving into one of Monk’s most haunting melodies. On Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream,” the performance starts politely enough with a light swing with Montgomery displaying restraint even in his solo.

The last four numbers are live performances with a group including pianist Earl Van Riper, and exhibit a tad bot more presence by Montgomery than the studio recordings. “Take The A Train” has lively solos from both. It is followed by a lovely “Misty” as well as a terrific “Body & Soul” where Montgomery’s technique and nuanced playing is outstanding. The final performance is a stunning, atmospheric improvisation, “After Hours Blues,” with Montgomery providing hard chords (in the vein of T-Bone Walker) to accent the opening late night blues piano solo from Van Riper. On his own solo one hears a blend of string bending, chords and single note runs as the audience responses delighted laughter, whoops and encouragement. It unfortunately fades out but one can imagine him playing another ten minutes in this vein without repeating his ideas.

The sound and packaging is first-rate and if not essential Wes Montgomery, this is certainly an important release that lovers of jazz guitar and Wes Montgomery will want. 

I do not recall if I received a review copy or purchased this. This review is from several years past and I do not recall if it was published. Resonance has subsequently issued a double CD package of even earlier recordings of Wes "In the Beginning."

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