Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar

Ira Gitler sensed the seeds of easy listening in Montgomery's second album but this was jazz, some way from the banalities of his pop years


When originally reviewing the Incredible Jazz Guitar release in Downbeat, Ira Gitler suggested the album was “easy listening music with meaning”, giving it five stars and agreeing perhaps Montgomery did deserve the soubriquet of “incredible”. In truth, the easy listening would follow a few years later.

Much has been written about this album and Montgomery’s influence upon other guitarists over the years, so to come up with anything new regarding this recording and his subsequent career is almost impossible. His early demise and relatively short recording history, running from 1959 to 1968, is testament to the impact he made in a very short space of time.

For this, the second album under his own name, he was teamed with the excellent rhythm section of Flanagan and the two Heaths – a perfect combination for a fledgling recording artist. Some would say a true match made in heaven.

This release showcased his use of octave playing, highlighted on the ballad Polka Dots And Moonbeams. It also showed how, despite using his thumb to pluck the strings, he was no slouch at pace, as on his own Four On Six or Sonny Rollins’ Airegin. His genuine creativity is to the fore on another original, West Coast Blues, which became a jazz standard.

The two bonus tracks come from The Montgomery Brothers album and Harold Land’s West Coast Blues. The brothers’ take on D-Natural Blues is a longer version, finding Wes really digging in alongside his sibs, who supply some serious swing.

(1) Airegin; D-Natural Blues; Polka Dots And Moonbeams; Four On Six; West Coast Blues; In Your Own Sweet Way; Mr. Walker; Gone With The Wind; (2) D-Natural Blues (different version); (3) West Coast Blues (different version) (56.25)
Montgomery (g) with:
(1) Tommy Flanagan (p); Percy Heath (b); Albert “Tootie” Heath. New York, 26 & 28 January 1960.
(2) Buddy Montgomery (p); Monk Montgomery (b); Lawrence Marable (d). Autumn 1960.
(3) Harold Land (ts); Joe Gordon (t); Barry Harris (p); Sam Jones (b); Louis Hayes (d). San Francisco, 18 May 1960.
Poll Winners Records PWR 27258