Wes Montgomery: Groove Yard

Virgin vinyl reissue of the Montgomery brothers' 1961 album includes an alternate take of the bebop head Doujie


Wes was certainly an overnight success when he recorded for Riverside Records in 1959. His initial album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery, received rave reviews all round. This 1961 disc with his brothers Monk and Buddy was, arguably, almost as good.

The opening Bock To Bock is just the sort of relaxed, smooth swinging, blues-based opus that Wes was so good at. His lines are warm and inventive, never over-excited or spectacular – just tasty. He plucks away merrily without a pick, delivering a richly melodic solo that is as laid back as it is enjoyable to listen to. Good support from the close attention of Buddy and Monk, the bassist back on acoustic bass after his electric experiments with the Mastersounds Band.

Groove Yard is by pianist Carl Perkins and again it flows along with a built-in, natural pulse feeding creative but smooth solos from pianist Buddy and Wes on guitar. If I Should Lose You shows how inventively lyrical and rhapsodic Wes could be at ultra-slow tempo. Bobby Thomas, the only non-Montgomery present proves a sensitive drummer throughout and is always tasteful. He was, apparently, their drummer of choice on the road – and they used quite a few stickmen.

Heartstrings, by Milt Jackson, is a soul-based piece and again as relaxed as anyone listening to genuine smooth jazz could wish for. Doujie is pure Charlie Parker style bop and the Montgomerys sail through it with ease. This release includes a very lively alternate take of Doujie with Buddy on vibes. It seems there was a problem with his motor and this piece lacks vibrato. It was the only track with vibes recorded on this session. It’s a solid groove performance though, and very welcome.

Bock To Bock; Groove Yard; If I Should Lose You; Delirium; Just For Now; Doujie; Heartstrings; Remember; Doujie (43.59)
Wes Montgomery (elg); Buddy Montgomery (p, vib); Monk Montgomery (b); Bobby Thomas (d). NYC, 3 January 1961.
Jazz Wax JWR 4622