In July 1948, Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra was on tour across America and with him was a young 25 year old guitarist who was beginning to make a name for himself. The guitarist’s name was John Leslie Montgomery, who was known to everyone as Wes; with him in the band’s rhythm section was another young, musician, bass player, Charles Mingus. The Hampton Orchestra was heard regularly on radio at the time, on stations as far apart as Denver, Little Rock and Geneva, NY.
For the next few years Montgomery stayed with Hampton, until the guitarist returned home to Indianapolis to support his young, growing, family. He and his two brothers, Buddy, a pianist and Monk who played Fender Jazz Bass began performing together as the Montgomery Brothers, In 1955 they recorded a version of ‘Love For Sale’ for Columbia, but it wasn’t released at the time.
Two years later the Montgomery Brothers recorded an album for World Pacific as The Montgomery Brothers And 5 Others. During 1958 Wes worked with tenor saxophonist, Harold Land and with his brothers for Pacific Jazz.
On 1 October 1959, the three brothers recorded as the Wes Montgomery Quintet for Pacific Jazz. Four days, on 5 October, later Wes was at Reeves Sound Studios, New York, recording what would be his first album as a trio, along with Paul Parker on drums and Mel Rhyne on organ. Billed as the Wes Montgomery Trio the session was released by Riverside a few months later.
While some have questioned the accompaniment of Parker and Rhyne, there is no questioning Wes’s amazing virtuosity on the guitar. Singlehandedly he reinvented the guitar solo. On Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’, the LP’s opening number, his playing is quite extraordinary; it sounds much later than a 1959 recording. Similarly his take on Duke Ellington’s ‘Satin Doll’ offers something altogether fresh and different, as he also does on Horace Silver’s ‘Ecaroh’. Other standouts include, ‘Yesterdays’ and Montgomery’s own composition, ‘Jingles’.
It’s likely that even if you are fan then the Wes Montgomery trio album may have passed you by. It’s well worthy of your reconsideration, for this is the fountainhead from which everything that follows will spring.
The Wes Montgomery Trio can be bought here.