Wes Montgomery

John Leslie " Wes " Montgomery ( March 6, 1923 in Indianapolis, Indiana, † June 15, 1968 ) was an American jazz guitarist who with his ailing thumb Oktavketten and melodic runs to this day one of the most influential jazz guitarists is.

Sections of the career

The career of Wes Montgomery can be roughly divided into three sections: After his club gigs in his hometown, he published from the late 1950s until the mid-1960s on various labels - especially on Riverside - most virtuosic jazz recordings in a small ensemble. From 1964 on, he was under contract with Verve, where he recorded some very popular records, often with orchestral arrangements by Oliver Nelson and Don Sebesky. However, the artistic quality of these recordings was quite different, so they are controversial among music critics and jazz fans to this day. In 1967 he joined the pop label A & M, where he committed to a perceived by many as shallow formula of Easy Listening. Wes Montgomery died of a heart attack in 1968.

Life and work

Wes Montgomery was a self-taught: he first heard the age of nineteen plates of Charlie Christian, bought a guitar and began to copy the solos. With his brothers Monk and Buddy he played, worked in a factory during the day, evenings in clubs. His professional career began when he played from 1948 to 1950 with Lionel Hampton. The tour lasted stress tired, he returned for family reasons to Indianapolis back again worked in the factory and went on the evening with his own band. Between 1957 and 1959 he traveled occasionally to San Francisco, where his brothers as The Mastersounds celebrated successes and he was involved in its panel sessions. These early recordings were released later on Pacific Records.

1959 Cannonball Adderley heard him at a club in Indianapolis play and gave him a recording contract with Riverside Records. He recorded his album The Poll Winners with Wes. In the same year was Wes ' first album for Riverside, accompanied by Melvin Rhyne, organ, and Paul Parker, drums. In January 1960, he took his probably best album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, accompanied by Tommy Flanagan, Percy and Albert Heath. This was followed by recordings of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Harold Land, Milt Jackson, as well as live performances by John Coltrane. Emerged in this most creative period of his career his albums So Much Guitar (1961) and Full House (1962 ) with Johnny Griffin and the trio of Wynton Kelly, with whom he also performed live, as well as with his brothers Monk and Buddy as The Montgomery Brothers. On later Riverside albums like Guitar On the Go or Fusion! Wes joined " the rhythm and energy of rock with jazz harmonies ".

After 1964, when Riverside Records was abandoned by Orrin Keepnews, Wes Montgomery stood at Verve Records. In 1965, he toured Europe for the first time through, stepped on the London jazz club Ronnie Scott's, playing with Johnny Griffin and Harold Mabern in Paris. On the first Verve album made ​​its producer Creed Taylor Wes as soloists in a big band context with companions such as Jerome Richardson, Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green, Quentin Jackson and Clark Terry; then came in close succession a series of seven albums with small group, big band and string cast on which the guitarist was accompanied by the orchestras of Oliver Nelson, Claus Ogerman or Don Sebesky. Their arrangements created, the Smooth Jazz anticipating a very successful pop jazz instrumental versions of pop hits such as current then California Dreamin ', Golden Earrings or Goin ' Out of My Head, which was awarded a Grammy. So Wes Montgomery became a " prime example of the marketing process, which so many jazz musicians are subjected. Creed Taylor produced it alone to the point of merchantability and him - but what, as the critic Gary Giddins noticed was the least would be - " not even allowed to play on every third or fourth plate the music that he actually at heart. was " 1962 Wes said in a Newsweek interview: " I know the melody, you know them well. Why should I play " And towards the end of his life he said :" I 'm depressed about my game ... "


Montgomery is considered alongside Charlie Christian as probably the most influential American jazz guitarist. He developed an idiosyncratic performance technique, in which he struck the strings with his thumb rather than a plectrum and thus produced a very soft sound. Characteristic was his ( adopted from Django Reinhardt ) Oktavtechnik that is often imitated even today. Two notes are played simultaneously, while the intermediate string with the left hand is attenuated. Since the middle of the three fingered strings with struck, creates a perkussiverer sound than other Oktavtechniken, which, however, does not sound too hard by the thumb stop. Furthermore, Montgomery often played extended block chord solos on the highest level. By chord substitutions, which represented both the basis of his solo playing and the chord work, Montgomery sounded very modern for its time. So he often played over a minor chord, the corresponding Major 7th chord is a minor third higher, or about Dominantseptimakkorde the minor seventh chord a quart deep from. Through such techniques, he emphasized the higher intervals of the underlying harmonies (7, 9, 11, 13 ), which is nowadays referred to as " Upper Structure".

His colleague Jim Hall expressed his admiration like this: "I spent a whole afternoon in San Francisco, trying to pinch his thumb in a car door. "

Discography (selection)

As a leader

  • Fingerpickin ' (Pacific Jazz, 1958) with Buddy & Monk Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard
  • Kismet, 1958
  • The Montgomery Brothers, 1958
  • Montgomeryland, 1958
  • A Good Git -Together 1959
  • The Wes Montgomery Trio, 1959
  • The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, 1960, Riverside Records
  • So Much Guitar, 1961
  • Full House (1961 )
  • Portrait of Wes (1962 )
  • Fusion! ( Riverside, 1963)
  • Movin ' Wes ( Verve Records, 1965)
  • Impressions - The Jazz Sides of Wes Montgomery ( Verve compilation 1965-66 )
  • Greatest Hits (A & M Tape 1968/1970 )
  • Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Resonance Records, in 1957/58, ed 2012)

As a co-leader or sideman

  • Cannonball Adderley: Cannonball Adderley and the Poll Winners ( Landmark, 1960):
  • Nat Adderley: Work Song, 1960
  • Lionel Hampton: 1949-1950 ( Classics ), 1950 ( Classics )
  • Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery Bags Meets Wes ( Riverside / OJC, 1960)
  • Harold Land West Coast Blues ( OJC, 1960)
  • Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery Jimmy & Wes - The Dynamic Duo ( Verve, 1966 ) with the Oliver Nelson Orchestra