Resonance Records has been digging up a number of previously unheard recordings from the legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery in recent years. Their latest effort is more familiar – but it’s just as essential. These 1965 live recordings have circulated in innumerable forms over the decades, but never in such stellar sound quality and never with the Montgomery estate’s blessing. Whether you’ve heard this performance a hundred times or you’re new to it, Resonance’s edition is as advertised: Definitive.
And what a performance. Montgomery was on the verge of his late-period creamy commercial crossover when he undertook his one and only European tour in the spring of ’65, but you wouldn’t really know it here. The music is about as fierce as the guitarist ever got, with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace (not to mention a guest spot from tenor sax giant Johnny Griffin) all pushing him to unbelievable heights. The version of Coltrane’s “Impressions” is a 10-minute master class, as Montgomery fires off a dazzling series of lightning fast lines, daring his band to keep up with him (they manage, barely). And the marvelously moody “‘Round Midnight” takes the well-worn Monk standard into deep new zones. Throw in Resonance’s typically painstaking packaging and detailed liner notes and you’ve got a very necessary addition to your jazz library. words / t wilcox