Music Interlude: Wes! Live!!

April 1st, 2016 at 2:11 pm

OK, cats and kittens, listen up. If you love swingin’ jazz like I do, with lots of soul and with a strong dose of the blues, then you’ve got to be hip to the great guitarist Wes Montgomery. I, of course, possess all Wes’s sessions on disk but if I had to point you toward one, it would be Boss Guitar, with Mel Rhyne at the Hammond B-3 organ.

Here’s one cut to give a sense of what they’re up to–Besame Mucho, a spicy Latin dish to whet your appetite.

But one of my great regrets is that I never saw Wes play in person. One of the ways he gets that mellow tone is by picking the strings with his thumb instead of a nasty, old pick. I could never imagine how he pulls all those fast runs with his thumb. I mean, mine is “opposable,” I guess, but how does he do that, I wondered?!

Well, the truly amazing link I want to share with you today is this–an hour plus of Wes live! And now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes…I still can’t figure how he does it! But man, is he ever fun to watch.

He starts out with this European (Dutch?) rhythm section, and if you thought euro-dudes couldn’t swing with an American genius, these guys will force a rethink. Later clips in the video are with more familiar jazz guys from this side of the pond.

It’s all great, but especially check out “The end of a love affair,” at around minute 15. They spend a few minutes figuring out the chords, throw in a wrinkle or two to the harmony, and they’re off. I was then particularly dazzled by his thumb-work on “Impressions” around minute 30.

I know, I know…you’re very welcome. Enjoy!

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2 comments in reply to "Music Interlude: Wes! Live!!"

  1. Erik says:

    Lovely clip – Wes is wonderful and underrated.

    But I was struck by the technique. I’ve seen that before (more recently performed, yes, but seen by me earlier) from my long-time favorite guitarist, Jeff Beck. For those that don’t know him, he was one of the great guitarists of the Yardbirds in the 60s (Clapton, Beck, & Page), and in the 70s & 80s was called every jazz fan’s favorite rock guitarist, and every rock fan’s favorite jazz guitarist. 🙂 I never realized he learned the technique from Wes, but it doesn’t surprise me, as he’s long been a student of the instrument as well as a master. His technique was on display on the great live set from ’08, Live from Ronnie Scott’s. Most of it has been pulled off YouTube, but here’s one still up: Highly recommended.

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Wow–that Beck clip was great–and yeah, I thought I heard/saw some Wes in there somewhere. He and also seemed to be equally enjoying themselves.