In welcome fits of serendipity, the manuscripts of previously unknown European classical compositions are found in attics, old churches or forgotten libraries and brought to light with no little fanfare. In the United States, there is an equivalent situation with hitherto previously unissued jazz recordings being revealed in the most unlikely places. In a recent example, producer Michael Cuscuna
got wind of some unissued music by guitarist Wes Montgomery
(1923-1968) being offered on eBay. Due to the short length of the guitarist's professional career, there are many fewer Montgomery recordings out there as compared to his peers of the 1950s and '60s. The eBay listing came to an end, and the tape's new owner, guitarist Jim Greeninger, made a call to Cuscuna that, three years later, resulted in the release of Echoes of Indiana Avenue
These recordings were made in three different formats, ostensibly as demos for record companies. Montgomery signed with the Pacific Jazz label in 1958 (resulting in Fingerpickin'
), so it is thought that these recordings were made between 1957 and '58. Montgomery's style represents a natural evolution from Charlie Christian
's groundbreaking recordings of the late 1930s. If Joe Pass approximates Oscar Peterson
on guitar, then Montgomery is Count Basie
. Montgomery's technicality was revealed in his use of octaves more than his speed or dexterity. His note choice was expert, and in light of his autodidactic status, revelatory.
Montgomery's respect of Thelonious Monk
is illustrated by the guitarist's inclusion of "'Round Midnight" and "Straight, No Chaser" in these demos. "'Round Midnight" was a regular inclusion in Montgomery's book, having been recorded by the guitarist several times during his short career. This early example of the jazz ballad shows that Montgomery's jazz language was already well developed. He spins the Monk tune into a classic improvisation that goes where the piano cannot take it. Montgomery's solo development here can be compared to that of Sonny Rollins
on his improvised masterpiece, "Blue Seven" from Saxophone Colossus
(Prestige, 1956). Montgomery carefully develops his solo within the format of the classic organ trio, burning the already well-worn piece with a soul jazz flame. This is the greatest jazz find brought to disc since The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: at Carnegie Hall
(Blue Note, 2005).
Personnel: Wes Montgomery: guitar; Monk Montgomery: bass (3); Buddy Montgomery:
piano (3); Mingo Jones: bass (6-9); Earl Van Riper: piano (6-9); Sonny
Johnson: drums (6--8); Melvin Rhyne: piano (1, 4), organ (2, 5); Paul
Parker: drums (1, 2, 4, 5); Unknown bassist (1, 4).