The safest course of action on encountering a tribute album is usually to run like hell in the opposite direction. Which is why this beautiful album stayed unplayed for a couple of weeks before finally, thank God, finding the deck.
This recording is just lovely. If Wes Montgomery was alive today, this is almost certainly what he would sound like. But he isn't. It's what Pat Martino sounds like today, when revisiting his primary formative influence. And that's what validates Rememberas much a Martino album as a Montgomery one.
Take the opening three tracks, each of them iconic Montgomery"Four On Six," the best-known track from his 1960 breakthrough album The Incredible Jazz Guitar, and the later title tracks "Groove Yard" and "Full House." Martino gets deep inside the spirit and groove of each original recording, but he invests the tunes with driving and soaringly lyrical solos which don't repeat a note of Montomery's own inventions and are absolutely his own. He does the same with that other signature track, "West Coast Blues," and indeed throughout the album.
Martino has a head start, of course, with his technique, which is formidable and grew out of Montgomery to start with. Martino cut his professional teeth playing in soul-jazz organ trios in the 1960s, building his style around Montgomery (and to a lesser extent Grant Green), and he recreates Montgomery's warm, rounded tone, virtuosic parallel-octave runs, chordal improvisations and measured grooves like he was born for them. That is no small achievement, especially given the fact that he literally had to reinvent himself after a brain aneurysm robbed him of his memory in the '70s.
Another important influence, frequently acknowledged by Martino, is the almost forgotten genius Johnny Smith, creator of the exquisite Moonlight In Vermont in 1952. Smith's advanced technical facility, astonishingly inventive voicings and lush melodicism also inform Martino's music. Combine them with Montgomery's legacy and you're close to kissing the sky.
Remember almost wholly ignores Montgomery's final, sweetened years on Verve, concentrating instead on his more muscular early-1960s Riverside period. Five of the tracks are Montgomery originals, five are tunes associated with him, and most inhabit that mid to fast-tempo, metronomic groove that Montgomery so relished. Pianist David Kikoski is his own man, but he evokes the funky lyricism of Montgomery's favourite Riverside-era pianist, Wynton Kelly. John Patitucci and Scott Allan Robinson keep the skillet greasy. Altogether gorgeous.