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It’s unfair to blame Wes Montgomery for the soulless work of those who claim him as an influence; his trademark octave runs became a cash cow for the smooth jazz associated with the piped-in music of doctor’s offices and grocery stores. In reality, Montgomery was a much sought-after player by many; even Coltrane played with him for a time. Montgomery gives the impression that playing the guitar requires no less concentration than tying your shoes, fashioning a style admired (and imitated) by many. Milt Jackson, an amateur guitarist himself, reportedly leapt at the chance to play with him on this outing. Jackson seems to enjoy escaping the restrictive confines of the systematic Modern Jazz Quartet for some hard bop workouts, and the rhythm section is filled with perfect choices to achieve this goal. Nothing is taken at a tempo that would quicken the pulse, yet the metallic chime of the vibes is a perfect foil for the snap of Montgomery’s guitar. It’s surprising, given the title of the album, that the leaders are so generous with the spotlight, giving the rhythm section ample solo space; it would have been nice to hear Montgomery and Jackson really have a go at each other on some of the more spirited numbers. Nevertheless, they turn in a finer version of “Delilah” than Brown and Roach did, and “Stairway to the Stars” is simply beautiful. It’s not surprising that the mutual admiration provide an outing that is such a great listen.
Track Listing: S.K.J., Stablemates, Stairway to the Stars, Blue Roz, Sam Sack, Jingles, Delilah, Stairway to the Stars (take 2), Jingles (take 8), Delilah (take 3).
Personnel: Milt Jackson-vibes; Wes Montgomery-guitar; Wynton Kelly-piano; Sam Jones-bass; Philly Joe Jones-drums.