Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Complete Riverside Recordings
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Guitarist Wes Montgomery recorded for Riverside from 1959 to 1963, going in that time from an obscure Indianapolis musician to the most celebrated guitarist in jazz. All the reasons for that rise are here, in a 12-CD box t... more »
Guitarist Wes Montgomery recorded for Riverside from 1959 to 1963, going in that time from an obscure Indianapolis musician to the most celebrated guitarist in jazz. All the reasons for that rise are here, in a 12-CD box that includes 49 previously unreleased and alternate takes. The settings range from the organ trios with which Montgomery often worked to tracks with string accompaniment, but the music is all linked by the guitarist's highly original approach, using thumb picking and frequent octave runs to put his signature on blues, ballads, and bop tunes. Among the gems are live recordings of a quintet that includes the accelerated tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin and bassist Paul Chambers, as well as the studio recordings where Montgomery matches talents with Milt Jackson and the fine pianists Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones. --Stuart Broomer
A truly unique musician
Ian K. Hughes | San Mateo, CA | 08/12/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The ability to move the most casual of listeners as well as hard-core music lovers is quite unique. Frank Sinatra had such a gift as did Miles Davis. Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery ( 1925-1968 ) should surely be added to that rare category of musician who exudes effortlessness; a genius that extends far beyond ( mere ) virtuosity to touch the souls of people long after their own departure. Montgomery's brief recording career has often been described as consisting of three phases, each categorized according to the record label he worked with. 1. "Riverside" years ( 1959-1963 )
2. "Verve" years ( 1964-1966 )
3. "A&M" years ( 1967-1968 )Wes' work with "Riverside" ( featured in its entirety in the complete box set under review ) is rightly acclaimed as the high point of his career, consisting as it does of his playing in straight ahead jazz combos ( quartets/quintets ), organ trios and even towards the end, a "string" date ( somewhat awkwardly titled "FUSION" ) that prefigures his later work. Wes Montgomery was a very consistent artist, so one will not find many mediocre recordings in his oeuvre. Nevertheless, there are particular highpoints: "SO MUCH GUITAR" (1961) features a good mixture of tunes and an interesting group consisting of Hank Jones, Lex Humphries, a young Ron Carter on bass and the congas of the popular sideman Ray Barretto. Wes' unaccompanied version of "While We're Young" is breathtaking."FULL HOUSE" ( 1962 ) is an exciting live date ( the only one for "Riverside" ) in Berkeley with a superb backing band ( Miles Davis' working group ) of Wynton Kelley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb plus the tenor saxophone of Johnny Griffin. Unfortunately, as with the great majority of "Riverside" albums, the lush beauty of Wes' Gibson L-5 was not captured properly. Anyone who knows Wes Montgomery's playing is aware that his tone is absolutely unique; Kenny Burrell and George Benson are some of the few guitarists that come close to Wes' warm ( almost acoustic ) sound. For this reviewer, the all-time greatest music Wes Montgomery ever put to wax is heard on "BOSS GUITAR" ( April 1963 ), cut with hometown friend Mel Rhyne on organ and Jimmy Cobb on drums. What sets this LP apart from the others? 1) Repertoire:It is carefully programmed as a balance of blues + ballads + bop. Two of Wes' best original tunes are here ( "Fried Pies" and "The Trick Bag" ). Some tunes have Latin/Bossa feel ( "Besame Mucho" and "Canadian Sunset" ) while standards such as "Dearly Beloved" and "Days of Wine & Roses" are taken at varying tempos ( the former taken at an incredibly fast clip ). 2) Performance: Wes was unbelievably "on" for this session, even by his Olympian standards. Some of the melodic lines that come out of his improvisations are impressive enough to be considered "tunes" in themselves. His improv on the ballad titled "For Heavens Sake" can bring tears to the eye. Also, having an excellent drummer like Jimmy Cobb really helped the music lift off ( what great jazz album has a poor performance by the drummer? ). 3) Sound:The engineering on this album comes closer than most other "Riverside" albums in revealing his beautiful tone. While not as rich as his later "Verve" releases, "BOSS GUITAR" is notable for its sound quality.Wes Montgomery's "story" is fairly well known amongst aficionados. A self taught guitarist ( starting at age 19 ) inspired by the pioneering work of Charlie Christian, he avoided touring for the most part and plied his trade in an endless succession of gigs at bars and after-hours clubs in his native Indianapolis throughout the 1950's ( this while holding down a day job and supporting a wife and family! ). Many dates would take shape in the "organ trio" ( B-3 organ, guitar, drums ) format common to the era; others were shared in the company of his two musician brothers ( Buddy and Monk ).Eventually Cannonball Adderly got word of this phenomenon and checked him out in person. Immediately, the great alto saxophonist urged his producer to sign Wes to their label. Shortly thereafter the LP titled "THE INCREDIBLE JAZZ GUITAR OF WES MONTGOMERY" ( 1960 ) came out and he was quickly acclaimed as THE great jazz guitarist ( critic Ralph J. Gleason referred to Wes as the "best thing to come along since Charlie Christian" ). To judge from his influence in the years following his unfortunately early death, Wes Montgomery may well be the most influential jazz guitarist of all time. Certainly he is one of a select few that one can consider in the same breath with the horn players that have traditionally dominated this dynamic art form.It seems a bit churlish to give this deluxe box set less than a 5 star review. My rationale is that the savvy music fan is able to pick out a number of albums from Wes' overall catalog ( not restricted to "Riverside" releases ) for far less money and still get a better view of his artistry. This obviously will not work for those of a "completist" mindset, but the majority may wish to follow the suggested route in building a solid collection of Wes Montgomery's music. This reviewer believes that the previously mentioned albums are quite representative of Montgomery's best work on "Riverside" and while his "Verve" legacy is not as esteemed by hardcore jazz fans, three in particular stand out as excellent: "IMPRESSIONS" (esp. the second CD, a 1965 date at the Half Note in NYC with Kelley, Chambers and Cobb ), "THE DYNAMIC DUO" ( 1966 with Jimmy Smith on organ ) and "TEQUILA" ( string arrangements by Claus Ogerman in 1966 date; the most successful combination of "popular" and "pure" Wes )."
What more could a Wes Montgomery fan really need?
Ian K. Hughes | 08/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At the age of 49, after being a Wes Montgomery fan for over 35 years, and, after wishing for this wonderful set of music since it was published several years ago, I have finally found Nirvana. EVERY SINGLE SELECTION on the entire set is wonderful. Not a bad piece in the box. Here is Wes as I've loved him over the years. Young, honest, brave, energetic, romantic, OUTSTANDING! Giving no quarter, taking no prisoners, straight ahead and way ahead of any of his contemporaries - Wes Montgomery, The Master at Work. Buy it, savor it, love it. What more could a Wes Montgomery fan really need?"
Great for background music
Maurice Baker | 03/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a staggering amount of music in this collection -- 12 full CDs worth! On one hand, this boxed set is a convenience for a true Wes Montgomery fan as it gathers tracks not just from releases where he was the frontman, but also from his collaborations with other Riverside artists where he was billed as a guest or supporting role; plus there are alternate and unreleased takes of several tunes. On the other hand, this collection is almost too much of a good thing ... choosing which CD to play is like standing at an unlimited buffet of comfort food and knowing your eyes are bigger than your stomach!
As was noted above, the packaging is the weakest part of this compendium, but only because it does little to help the owner differentiate one CD from another; the three quadruple-CD jewel cases are identical in appearance, and original (1960s) album content is sometimes split between CDs. This becomes even more confusing when there are multiple versions of the same song presented on different CDs -- remember, every one of these selections are instrumentals. The documentation is good to excellent though, as the boxed set comes with an LP-sized booklet filled with photographs, discography and biographical information.
In general, for Montgomery the Riverside years were more enjoyable (even if less commercially successful) than his subsequent Verve years. Much of his Riverside output resulted from trio, quartet or quintet ensembles, sometimes including one or both of his brothers, and was rooted in the sensibilities of jazz club improvisation. Be forewarned, though, that some of Montgomery's Riverside collaborations were forays into stringed orchestration or other stylings not 'typical' of a be-bop jazzman; however, compared to his later Verve material these experiments are softer, sweeter and less contrived sounding than the brassy, punchy pop arrangements of later albums like GOING OUT OF MY HEAD.
I have no qualms about the sound quality of this collection; these performances were originally recorded with analog equipment and under the recording conditions typical of a fledgling label in the late 1950s/early 1960s. But the playback is free of pops, hisses, dropouts, etc. and is in stereo so there is little reason to complain; these aren't wrinkled 'demo' tapes, crackling and tinny radio appearances or bootlegged live recordings that sometimes round out similar 'complete' collections. Nearly everything in CRR represents studio recordings with the exceptions being the live tracks that originally comprised the excellent FULL HOUSE album.
For the casual jazz listener who isn't sure if this collection would suit his ear, I recommend GROOVE BROTHERS or FAR WES (non-Riverside recordings that predate/coincide with Montgomery's first sessions with Riverside and feature his brothers accompanying on piano and bass) or FULL HOUSE (my favorite material on CRR). I also recommend VERVE IMPRESSIONS: THE JAZZ SIDES, with particular emphasis placed on the reconstructed SMOKIN AT THE HALFNOTE live material."