Wes Montgomery, Jazz Guitarist/Musician/Legend, that’s what I think about this brilliant composer and instrumentalist. Born in Indianapolis Indiana, the guitarist had one of the most successful careers in the world of Jazz. Just recently I had a chance to hear a recording of Wes live in Paris which was produced on March 27, 1965 and had been re-released digitally in a two CD set by Resonance Records. There are two reasons as to what makes this recording so unique. This was Wes’ first and only performance in Paris, AKA the “City of Light” and it was recorded in “ORTF”. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “What the hell is ‘ORTF'”. “ORTF” is a technique used to record stereo sound. Now I can go on and talk about recording techniques, however that’s not what this is about.
Wes was joined on the stage, by Jazz legends, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper, drummer Jimmy Lovelace, and special guest, tenor sax player Johnny Griffin, all solid at what they play in the Jazz world. The arrangement are flawless and truly some of Wes’ best work along with his accompaniment. Harold’s piano is full of the freewheeling spirit of “Bop” and the tight rhythm section keeping the pace for the finger picking leads and the slash chord solos with the magnificence only Montgomery can deliver.
The mid-’60s was considered a time of “Pop Jazz” which is where Wes tended to drift towards, however, he still kept to his bebob and blues roots through the entire performance. Song number four on CD number two is a perfect example of this combination of genre and style that is the antithesis of Wes Montgomery. The entire album illustrates the long lasting impression his creativity left on the world of Jazz and all the genres of music today and days of the past. We lost Wes 3 years after this iconic performance, June 15, 1968 at the age of 45 due to a massive heart attack. A crushing blow to the Jazz and performing artist community. This album is a must have for all Jazz enthusiasts.