Wes Montgomery - Smoken' V1
CD: February 15, 2005
Original Release Date: February 15, 2005
Format: Live, Original recording remastered
Bitrate: 320 kbps
"This album is the live equivalent of the INCREDIBLE GUITAR album--Wes Montgomery cooking with a seasoned and communicative piano trio on a set of jazz compositions, standards, and original material. INCREDIBLE GUITAR has Tommy Flanagan, Percy Heath, and Albert Heath; SMOKIN' has the Wynton Kelly trio, with Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Not only had the same trio served as one of Miles Davis' great rhythm sections, but Kelly was considered by many to be the most gifted accompanist of his time.
Miles Davis's "No Blues" is in fact an utterly relentless blues, with Montgomery nailing each single-note, octave, or block-chord phrase with passionate conviction. Bassist Sam Jones's "Unit 7" is another uptempo blues. "Four on Six," which debuted on INCREDIBLE GUITAR, gets an edited version of the head and a slightly faster treatment overall. Kelly takes the lead on the first ballad, "If You Could See ..."
This remastered, expanded edition of the classic Wes Montgomery-Wynton Kelly session is essentially an economy-priced version of the import, "The Complete Live at the Half Note." If you have the original "Smokin' at the Half Note" and are not a Wes completist, the audio quality of this version is not sufficiently superior, imo, to justify purchase. As for the addition of six previously unreleased tunes, only "Impressions" might be considered essential. Still, it's reassuring to see that Wes' popularity continues to be supported by new editions of his work.
Wes did not receive widespread public recognition until he was 35, and he was barely 44 when he died. Still, it's unlikely any other guitarist (including Christian and Django) has had a greater impact in the history of this music. By the time he had moved on from Riverside to this session for Verve, he had little to prove to musicians and was beginning to accept more accessible, popular assignments that would broaden his appeal to the general public. "Smokin'," despite lacking any tunes as challenging as "Airegin" ( "The Incredible Guitar Artistry of" ), can stand alongside his Riverside work as an example of creative, inspired playing. And the presence of Wyn Kelley along with Chambers and Cobb definitely raises the swing factor a notch.
What sets Wes apart from the field is not pyrotechnical legerdemain or bold innovation but every "little" thing that he does so well so effortlessly so much of the time. The sound he gets out of the instrument is of itself a marvel. It has a deep and meaty, utterly natural, resonance, almost as if the tone is doubling itself, reminding me less of other guitarists than of Bird and Clifford. Additionally, there's never a microsecond of doubt in his playing or solo constructions. Nothing is tentative--in terms of notes, phrases, or choruses. It's all so completely lyrical and logical that the listener's biggest challenge can be not to take it for granted.
His solo on Sam Jones' "Unit 7" might serve as a touchstone to all of his playing. He starts with inventive single note melodic ideas, then moves to octaves without the faintest suggestion of slowing down to accommodate the extra note, then finally kicks it into high gear with a fully chorded "out" chorus that feels as forceful as a shout chorus by the whole Count Basie Band.
I never caught Wes live, but I've heard that visually he was the mirror image of his music--efficient, composed, resourceful, economical--not the least hint of wasted motion, just like Bird and Tatum. Genius requires a level of concentration that the rest of us probably have little to no experience with. Wes Montgomery is one of those artists who can take the listener beyond the music, offering a glimpse of the creative process itself as practiced by a true master. ~ Samuel Chell
Wynton Kelly - piano
Wes Montgomery - guitar
Also: Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb
Wes Montgomery - Smoken' V1 Tracks
01. No Blues
02. If You Could See Me Now
03. Unit 7
04. Four On Six
05. What's New?
Recorded live at this now-defunct legendary New York nightspot on June 24, 1965.
According to Pat Metheny, the best live jazz guitar album ever made. 'Nuff said...