Music

Wes Montgomery: So Much Guitar!

In this latest reissue, it's two full LP's for the price of one ... both of which are independently brilliant.


Wes Montgomery

So Much Guitar!

Label: Concord Music Group
US Release Date: 2013-07-23
UK Release Date: Import
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

I've been here before, many times. So Much Guitar! was part of my guitar curriculum in college, so I studied it profusely, clumsily breaking down each note to make an attempt at reassembly though my inexperienced fingers, but never capturing the feel or spirit I heard. I was just connecting the dots, regretfully missing out on what I'm experiencing now. Until this point, I never had an opportunity to fully appreciate this album as a carefully crafted work of art. Osmosis through repetitive casual listens doesn't really apply to jazz, and the only way to absorb this level of mastery is to dedicate your time and attention to the album -- which is exactly what So Much Guitar!, deserves. Such is also true for Wes Montgomery's entire career.

Historically, the significance of this recording in the Montgomery timeline is substantial. The combination of Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Hank Jones, and Lex Humphries proved to be an ideal canvas for Montgomery's paintings. The light Latin feel brought to the project via Barretto's superb conga work would be revisited time and again as part of a future formula at the end of his catalog that's equally loved and despised. Here's that equatorial flavor presented with Montgomery at full tilt, long before the Creed Taylor / Verve / A&M 'octave' years. The interaction between Carter's bass and Humphries' drums is mastery at its most playful, perfectly pocketed underneath Montgomery and Jones. The addition of Barretto is just bonus, giving So Much Guitar! as a whole as well as the recorded career of Wes Montgomery to that point something it desperately needed. Spice.

For some reason, the powers that be decided to add another entire album to the track lineup on So Much Guitar!. Originally issued as The Montgomery Brothers in Canada, tracks nine through sixteen on this latest issue changes the instrumentation, and the mood felt on the first half of the disc. That spice I referred to on the set with Barretto is missed when Canada starts, though the Montgomery Brothers LP inclusion here is welcomed. Both albums deserve to stand alone, but I must admit it's a hell of a bonus. Wes Montgomery bogo ... I can dig it.

There's so many things that go into the careful construction of a good jazz album. A lot of music buffs, including myself, consider the output from jazz artists of the '50s and '60s to be the finest in the era of album invention. The technology in recording equipment had hit its first pinnacle by 1953, bringing you into the room with the artist(s) to experience the melding of tones, the vibrating of reeds, the breaths during the rests. The long-player format allowed for more improvisation and a quieter platform in reproduction, bringing nuance and dynamics into the recordings. All of this gave ample room for the artists to shine brightly, or fall flat on their face if they weren't at the top of their game. So, equipment advancements and good engineering skills set the bar high for all that dared to step foot into a studio ... which leads to the final and most important ingredient: Inspirational performances. Tape don't lie. Neither does a good recording engineer.

By the time 1961 rolled around, the majority of players in the jazz recording industry (and I include label owners, engineers, and general muses alike in this lumping) had reached this apex of control and finesse in the studio, and cruised right along for years until it was time to deconstruct or destruct, whichever came first. Luckily for us, Wes Montgomery's mastery only had the chance to mellowly deconstruct a bit before his untimely death in '68. A little de-invention, maybe, but no destruction. Even if the subtle octaving melodies of Montgomery's latter catalog leave you unimpressed, admitting to his masterful delivery no matter the setting is a smart allegiance. Yes, his earlier workouts are far superior to the Creed Taylor years, and So Much Guitar! is Montgomery at his most comfortably virile ... one of the finest recordings you'll ever put in your player.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image