Archive for the Wes MONTGOMERY Category

Wes MONTGOMERY- Live In ´65

Posted in JAZZ, MOVIES, Wes MONTGOMERY on December 2, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Wes MONTGOMERY- Live In ´65
May 7th 1965 in England.
2007  Issue.

Jazz

Wes Montgomery Live in ’65 is a 78-minute DVD consisting of three television studio performances that occurred in 1965 featuring jazz guitar icon Wes Montgomery in a quartet setting. In each case, Montgomery performs with a different rhythm section: in Holland (April 2) with brothers Pim (piano) and Ruud (bass) Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink; in Belgium (April 4) with Harold Mabern (piano), Arthur Harper (bass), and Jimmy Lovelace (drums); and, in England (May 7) with Stan Tracey (piano), Rick Laird (bass), and Jackie Dougan (drums). The DVD is available as both a standalone product and as part of a 7-DVD-plus-bonus-disc boxed set (Icons of Jazz, Series 2) that, in addition to the Montgomery DVD, offers rare live performance footage of John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Dexter Gordon, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington (see related press release for more information on the boxed set).
Today is the DVD’s official release date and the street price from most online providers is slightly under $20 US (for the standalone Montgomery DVD). Both the audio (Mono, Dolby Digital) and visual (B&W) quality of this re-mastered 42-year-old archived footage is excellent, the result of first-class work by the team at Reelin’ in the Years Productions. Also noteworthy is the fact that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Montgomery DVD (and the boxed set) will be donated to The Campaign For Jazz effort of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE).

1965 was an important year for Wes Montgomery. It finds him at the height of his powers as a jazz writer, arranger and performer, well known and respected by the jazz community. With the release of 1965’s very successful Goin’ Out of My Head, Montgomery’s forays into pop instrumentals will introduce both him and the art of jazz guitar to a much wider audience. 1965-66 was a busy time for Wes both in terms of performance dates and recording sessions (discography 1, discography 2).

The material on Live in ’65 is the result of extensive performance and recording dates by Wes in Europe – a rare occurrence in light of his well known aversion to flying. According to writer Jim Ferguson (link), “Montgomery’s venture abroad in 1965 represented one of the few times he was persuaded to board a plane. ‘He would have driven there if he could have,’ [Orrin] Keepnews adds. Live in ’65 provides a rare time capsule view into the jazz lover’s “pre-pop” Wes Montgomery performing several of the tunes with which he’s most closely associated, such as “Four On Six” and “West Coast Blues.”

The pleasures of Wes Montgomery Live in ’65 and Pat Metheny

Ten minutes into the first Montgomery session (Holland), my wife pokes her head into my office and says, “That music fills the house with joy.” I can’t describe the primary pleasure of this DVD better. Luckily, there are secondary pleasures to discuss, including the contribution of Pat Metheny.

Guitarist Metheny is the author of the ten-page-long liner notes (sample). His sentences are clear, concise, delightfully informative and tender without the banal use of glowing adjectives and nouns that’s en vogue when it comes to writing about jazz in general and jazz greats in particular. Metheny’s notes are excellent, even when I disagree with him.

When discussing Montgomery’s playing with what Metheny calls the “pickup” rhythm section of the Holland session, he says the following: “As with the footage from Britain that concludes this DVD, this [the Holland session with the Pim Jacobs trio] is Wes playing with musicians that he was most likely totally unfamiliar with, a situation well known to musicians as playing with a “pickup” rhythm section. I can attest that this experience can often lead to mixed results. Yet there are some musicians who seem to not only be able to play with anyone, under any conditions, and sound great, but make the others around them play and sound their best too…Wes easily fits into this special category. His spirit and presence, not to mention his rhythmic authority, drive the music in a masterful way. The minimum required for everyone was to just hang on and go along for the ride, but there are moments that transcend.”

The cause of my disagreement with Metheny’s opinion above isn’t that I think he’s wrong, per se (though calling the England rhythm section a pick-up situation is questionable in light of the dates Montgomery played at Ronnie Scott’s with Tracy and Laird prior to the May 7 DVD recording), but that it discounts one of the strongest lessons to be had from Live in ’65: An important part of what made Wes Montgomery a great musician was the fact that he was a great listener.

Montgomery’s uncanny ability to hear, feel, then adjust to a musical environment is well demonstrated by his performances in both the Holland and England sessions. The adjusting isn’t a one-way street. While the rhythm sections listen and anticipate Montgomery, he does the same thing with their contributions and you’ll find him making sensitive adjustments according to what unfolds. Montgomery leads, but it’s collaborative leadership not blind follow-the-leader sets. With Montgomery, it’s a matter of let’s take who we have and what we have and mine it for the joy it has to offer. There’s dialog, action, and reaction, with the reaction just as often as not coming from Wes.

Wes Montgomery the listener

The idea of listening points out another quality of Montgomery’s playing that comes through clearly on this DVD (though the same could be argued for most, if not all of his work), and that is, when Wes Montgomery plays he acts as both player and listener, here meaning “listener” in the audience sense. By 1965, many proficient jazz instrumentalists had drifted (or run) away from listener-centric (friendly) music in favor of musician’s music – music that’s more player-centric and that places the burden of pleasure more on the listener than the musician. Montgomery was willing to lead the general listener into rhythmically and harmonically complex territory, but not at the expense of leaving the listener behind.

While today some critics view this “leaving one foot on familiar ground” a lack of technical prowess or insufficient complexity, the ability to say neither more nor less than necessary to make a complete artistic statement is the hallmark of a fine player. Complexity for its own sake can dazzle, but falls short of reaching the heart. The principle of “neither too little nor too much under the circumstance” is a hallmark of effective art in any medium. In music, it’s the great player-listener that senses the difference.

Back to the joy

What’s interesting about my wife’s comment regarding the joy Montgomery’s music brought to our house is that she made it without seeing the DVD. Few people could watch these sessions without smiling with Wes Montgomery as he experiences the joy of making music. It is watching Montgomery perform and seeing as well as hearing his reactions to the other musicians that will convince you of what a great listener he was.

While some of this footage may have been “floating around” for years, the authorized and digitally re-mastered compilation, Live in ’65, represents a worthy addition to any music lover’s library and a must-have addition for lovers of guitar music. As Pat Metheny aptly puts it, “There are so many glories to talk about in Wes’s playing. But my feeling is that as much as everyone talks about his penchant for playing phrases in octaves, using polyphony [chords] in his improvisations and the whole thing with the thumb, too little is said about the details of his phrasing or the amazing vocal quality that he could invoke at will. Not to mention the amazing quality of melodic development that seems to inhabit virtually every solo he ever played. That sense of finalizing ideas is so embedded in his art as to be almost unnoticeable…that rarest of gifts, which even the best players possess in small doses.”
By Tom Watson.

**
Amazingly clear footage with great shots in a relaxed atmosphere that captures Wes’ character, relaxed approach and technique to his awesome playing style. The dialogue between Wes and the piano player in working out a tune gives a glimpse into their chord knowledge and experience. I’ve been playing for over 40 years and was influenced by Wes and Kenny Burrell in my beginning years. I recommend this video for any serious jazz guitarist.
By Ernie Jefferson.
**
Holland
April 2, 1965, with
Pim Jacobs (piano),
Ruud Jacobs (bass),
Han Bennink (drums)
**
01. I Love Blues
02. Nica’s Dream
03. “Love Affair” Rehearsal (one of the true highlights of the DVD)
04. The End Of A Love Affair

Belgium
April 4, 1965, with
Harold Mabern (piano),
Arthur Harper (bass),
Jimmy Lovelace (drums)
**
01. Impressions
02. Twisted Blues
03. Here’s That Rainy Day
04. Jingles
05. Boy Next Door

England
May 7, 1965, with
Stan Tracy- Piano
Riok Laird- Bass
Jackie Dougan- Drums
And
Ronnie Scott
**
01. Four On Six,
02. Full House,
03. Here’s That Rainy Day,
04. Twisted Blues,
05. West Coast Blues
**

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