Wes Montgomery’s first recordings as a leader for Riverside featured the popular organ-guitar-drums line-up, a configuration that he later abandoned for the better part of his stint with the label. Although organ jazz was quite a cash cow at the time, Montgomery was firmly rooted in bop, more eager to see what he could do with material like “Cottontail” rather than engaging in steamy soul jazz workouts. However, for his final recording with Riverside in 1963, Montgomery returned to the format in which he was originally discovered and reenlisted organist Mel Rhyne, his partner from the early days. Although he occasionally employed an extra horn on his recordings, Montgomery was always at his best as the sole lead instrument, as this recording will attest.
Boss Guitar is a good measure of how far the guitarist had come in a few short years; although he was quite proficient early on, there’s an elegance and precision missing from the earliest recordings. Anyone expecting an album along the lines of a Jimmy Smith session will be disappointed, for this record leans heavily on interpretations of popular tunes from the time instead of jam-oriented material. Which is not to say that the trio doesn’t generate heat: the lightning-quick riffing of “Dearly Beloved” is as incendiary as anything Montgomery ever did, and “Fried Pies” is a funky original with a heavy does of blues riffs. Montgomery eventually headed to Verve, where his direction was poorly managed, and Boss Guitar is arguably his last great session.
Personnel: Wes Montgomery-guitar; Mel Rhyne-organ; Jimmy Cobb-drums.