Sie sind auf Seite 1von 7

Wes Montgomery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery, 1965
Background information
Birth name John Leslie Montgomery
Born March 6, 1923
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died June 15, 1968 (aged 45)
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Genres Jazz, soul jazz, crossover jazz,mainstream jazz, hard bop
Occupations Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar, Bass Guitar
Labels Riverside, Verve, A&M
Montgomery Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Paul
Chambers,Freddie Hubbard, Cannonball
Adderley, Harold Land, Nat Adderley, Jimmy
Smith, Don Sebesky, Jimmy Jones, Milt Jackson, Jimmy
Cobb, Percy Heath, Tommy Flanagan
Notable instruments
Gibson L-5 CES
John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery (March 6, 1923 June 15, 1968)
was an American jazz
guitarist. He is widely considered one of the major jazz guitarists, emerging after such seminal
figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and influencing countless others,
including George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Royce Campbell, Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix, Steve
Howe, Russell Malone, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour, Joe Diorio, David
Becker, Randy Napoleon, and Emily Remler.
1 Biography
2 Technique
3 Recording career
4 Death
5 Discography
o 5.1 Riverside (19581964)
o 5.2 Verve (19641966)
o 5.3 A&M (19671968)
o 5.4 As sideman
6 References
7 External links
Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to NPR Jazz Profiles "The Life and
Music Of Wes Montgomery," the nickname "Wes" was a child's abbreviation of his middle name,
He came from a musical family; his brothers, Monk (double bass and electric bass)
and Buddy (vibraphone and piano), were jazz performers. The brothers released a number of
albums together as the Montgomery Brothers. Although he was not skilled at reading music, he
could learn complex melodies and riffs by ear. Montgomery started learning the six string guitar
at the relatively late age of 20 by listening to and learning the recordings of his idol,
guitarist Charlie Christian; however, he had played a four string tenor guitar since age twelve. He
was known for his ability to play Christian's solos note for note and was hired by Lionel
Hampton for this ability.

Many fellow jazz guitarists consider Montgomery the greatest influence among modern jazz
guitarists. Pat Metheny has praised him greatly, saying "I learned to play listening to Wes
Montgomery's Smokin' at the Half Note." In addition, Metheny stated to The New York Timesin
2005 that the solo on "If You Could See Me Now," from this album is his favorite of all time.Joe
Pass said, "To me, there have been only three real innovators on the guitarWes Montgomery,
Charlie Christian, and Django Reinhardt," as cited in James Sallis's The Guitar Players and in his
Hot Licks instructional video. Kenny Burrell states, "It was an honor that he called me as his
second guitarist for a session." In addition, George Benson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric
Johnson, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, David Becker, Joe Diorio, Steve Lukather,Larry Coryell,
and Pat Martino have pointed to him numerous times as a great influence. Lee Ritenour, who
recorded the 1993 album Wes Bound named after him, cites him as his most notable influence;
he also named his son Wesley.
Following the early work of swing/pre-bop guitarist Charlie Christian and gypsy-
jazz guitaristDjango Reinhardt, Wes joined Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Jimmy Raney, and Barney
Kessell to put guitar on the map as a bebop / post-bop instrument. While these men generally
curtailed their own output in the 1960s, Montgomery recorded prolifically during this period,
lending guitar to the same tunes contemporaries like John Coltrane and Miles Davis were
recording. While many jazz players are regarded as virtuosos, Montgomery had a very wide
influence on other virtuosos who followed him, having also earned the respect of his
contemporaries. To many, Montgomery's playing defines jazz guitar and the sound that students
try to emulate.
Dave Miele and Dan Bielowsky claim, "Wes Montgomery was certainly one of the most influential
and most musical guitarists to ever pick up the instrument... He took the use of octaves
and chord melodies to a greater level than any other guitarist, before or since... Montgomery is
undoubtedly one of the most important voices in Jazz guitar that has ever lived-or most likely
ever will live. A discussion of Jazz guitar is simply not thorough if it does not touch upon Wes

"Listening to [Wes Montgomery's] solos is like teetering at the edge of a brink," composer-
conductor Gunther Schuller asserted, as quoted by Jazz & Pop critic Will Smith. "His playing at
its peak becomes unbearably exciting, to the point where one feels unable to muster sufficient
physical endurance to outlast it." Wes received many awards and accolades: Nominated for two
Grammy Awards for Bumpin', 1965; received Grammy Award for Goin' Out of My Head as Best
Instrumental Jazz Performance by Large Group or Soloist with Large Group, 1966; nominated for
Grammy Awards for "Eleanor Rigby" and "Down Here on the Ground", 1968; nominated for
Grammy Award for Willow, Weep for Me, 1969. Wes' second album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar
of Wes Montgomery, earned him Down Beat magazine's "New Star" award in 1960. In addition,
he won the Down Beat Critic's Poll award for best Jazz guitarist in 1960, '61, '62,'63, '66, and

Montgomery toured with Lionel Hampton early in his career, however the combined stress of
touring and being away from family brought him back home to Indianapolis. To support his family
of eight, Montgomery worked in a factory from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, then performed in local clubs
from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am. Cannonball Adderley heard Montgomery in an Indianapolis club and
was floored. The next morning, he called record producer Orrin Keepnews, who signed
Montgomery to a recording contract with Riverside Records. Adderley later recorded with
Montgomery on his Pollwinners album. Montgomery recorded with his brothers and various other
group members, including the Wynton Kelly Trio which previously backed up Miles Davis.
John Coltrane asked Montgomery to join his band after a jam session, but Montgomery
continued to lead his own band. Boss Guitar seems to refer to his status as a guitar-playing
bandleader. He also made contributions to recordings by Jimmy Smith. Jazz purists relish
Montgomery's recordings up through 1965, and sometimes complain that he abandoned hard-
bop for pop jazz toward the end of his career, although it is arguable that he gained a wider
audience for his earlier work with his soft jazz from 19651968. During this late period he would
occasionally turn out original material alongside jazzy orchestral arrangements of pop songs. In
sum, this late period earned him considerable wealth and created a platform for a new audience
to hear his earlier recordings.
Wes Montgomery is the grandfather of actor Anthony Montgomery.


According to jazz guitar educator Wolf Marshall, Montgomery often approached solos in a three-
tiered manner: He would begin a repeating progression with single note lines, derived from
scales or modes; after a fitting number of sequences, he would play octaves for a few more
sequences, finally culminating with block chords. He used mostly superimposed triads and
arpeggios as the main source for his soloing ideas and sounds.

The use of octaves (playing the same note on two strings usually one octave apart) for which he
is widely known, became known as "the Naptown Sound". Montgomery was also an excellent
"single-line" or "single-note" player, and was very influential in the use of block chords in his
solos. His playing on the jazz standard "Lover Man" is an example of his single-note, octave- and
block-chord soloing. ("Lover Man" appears on the Fantasy album The Montgomery Brothers.)
Instead of using a guitar pick, Montgomery plucked the strings with the fleshy part of his thumb,
using downstrokes for single notes and a combination of upstrokes and downstrokes for chords
and octaves. Montgomery developed this technique not for technical reasons but for his
neighbors. He worked long hours as a machinist before his career began and practiced late at
night. To keep neighbors from complaining, he began playing more quietly by using his
This technique enabled him to get a mellow, expressive tone from his guitar
. George Benson, in the liner notes of the Ultimate Wes Montgomeryalbum, wrote, "Wes
had a corn on his thumb, which gave his sound that point. He would get one sound for the soft
parts, and then that point by using the corn. That's why no one will ever match Wes. And his
thumb was double-jointed. He could bend it all the way back to touch his wrist, which he would
do to shock people."
He generally played a Gibson L-5CES guitar. In his later years he played one of two guitars that
Gibson custom made for him. In his early years, Montgomery had a tube amp, often a Fender. In
his later years, he played a solid state Standel amp with a 15-inch (380 mm) speaker.
Recording career[edit]
Montgomery toured with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton's orchestra from July 1948 to January
1950, and can be heard on recordings from this period. Montgomery then returned to
Indianapolis and did not record again until December 1957 (save for one session in 1955), when
he took part in a session that included his brothers Monk and Buddy, as well astrumpeter Freddie
Hubbard, who made his recording debut with Montgomery. Most of the recordings made by
Montgomery and his brothers from 19571959 were released on thePacific Jazz label.

From 1959 Montgomery was signed to the Riverside Records label, and remained there until late
1963, just before the company went bankrupt. The recordings made during this period are widely
considered by fans and jazz historians to be Montgomery's best and most influential. Two
sessions in January 1960 yielded The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, which was
recorded as a quartet with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert
"Tootie" Heath. The album featured two of Montgomery's most well-known compositions, "Four
on Six" and "West Coast Blues."
Almost all of Montgomery's output on Riverside featured the guitarist in a small group setting,
usually a trio (and always with his organist from his Indianapolis days, Melvin Rhyne), a quartet,
or a quintet, playing a mixture of hard-swinging uptempo jazz numbers and quiet ballads. The
lone exception, Fusion, telegraphed his post-Riverside career: it was his first recording with a
string ensemble. One of the more memorable sets involved a co-leadership collaboration with
vibraphone virtuoso and Modern Jazz Quartet mainstay Milt Jackson, whom producer Orrin
Keepnews has said insisted on a collaboration with Montgomery as a condition for signing a solo
recording deal with Riverside.
In 1964 Montgomery moved to Verve Records for two years. His stay at Verve yielded a number
of albums where he was featured with an orchestrabrass-dominated (Movin' Wes), string-
oriented (Bumpin', Tequila), or a mix of both (Goin' Out of My Head, California Dreamin').

He never abandoned jazz entirely however in the Verve years, whether with a few selections on
most of the Verve albums, or by such sets as 1965s Smokin' at the Half Note (showcasing two
memorable appearances at the famous New York City club with the Wynton Kelly Trio) or a pair
of albums he made with jazz organ titan Jimmy Smith, The Dynamic Duo and Further Adventures
of Jimmy and Wes). He continued to play outstanding live jazz guitar, as evidenced by surviving
audio and video recordings from his 1965 tour of Europe.
As a considered founder of the smooth jazz school the album Bumpin' (1965) represents a model
from which many modern recording are derived: as the liner notes to the CD remaster issue note,
after being unable to produce the desired results by the guitarist and orchestra playing together,
arranger Don Sebesky suggested Montgomery record the chosen music with his chosen small
group, after which Sebesky would write the orchestral charts based on what Montgomery's group
had produced. Longer clips from all of the tracks on Bumpin' and other Wes Montgomery albums
are found on Verve Records website.
By the time Montgomery released his first album for A&M Records, he had seemingly abandoned
jazz entirely for the more lucrative pop market, though as in his Verve period he played his
customary jazz in small group settings in live appearances. The three albums released during his
A&M period (196768) feature orchestral renditions of famous pop songs ("Scarborough Fair", "I
Say a Little Prayer", "Eleanor Rigby", etc.) with Montgomery using guitar octave technique to
recite the melody. These records were the most commercially successful of his career, but
featured the least jazz improvisation.
[citation needed]

Wes and Buddy, along with Richard Crabtree and Benny Barth, formed "The Mastersounds", and
recorded "Jazz Showcase Introducing The Mastersounds" and a jazz version of "The King and I",
both released by World Pacific Records. They first played together at Seattle, particularly working
up the set for "The King and I", at a club called Dave's Fifth Avenue. The composers were so
impressed by the jazz version of "The King & I" that they pre-released the score of "Flower Drum
Song" to the quartet to allow simultaneous release with the soundtrack album.
On the morning of June 15, 1968, while at home in Indianapolis, Indiana, Montgomery awoke
and remarked to his wife that he "didn't feel very well." He soon collapsed, dying of a heart
attack within minutes. Only 45 years old at the time of his death, Montgomery had just returned
from a tour with his quintet and was at the height of his fame, having attained a degree of popular
acceptance that few jazz artists in that era achieved.
Montgomery's home town of Indianapolis
later named a park in his honor.
Main article: Wes Montgomery discography

Wes Montgomery "Tear
It Down" (1965)

Sample from Wes
Montgomery's "Tear It
Down," from the
album Bumpin'

Problems playing this file? See media help.
Riverside (19581964)[edit]
Wes' recordings for Riverside/Milestone Records, including those made with The Montgomery
Brothers are on the 12CD Box Wes Montgomery: The Complete Riverside Recordings.

1958: Fingerpickin'
1958: Far Wes
1959: The Wes Montgomery Trio
1959: Yesterdays
1959: Pretty Blue
1960: The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
1960: Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners
1960: Movin' Along
1961: So Much Guitar
1961: Wes and Friends
1961: Bags Meets Wes! (with Milt Jackson)
1962: Full House
1963: Fusion!: Wes Montgomery with Strings (strings arranged by Jimmy Jones)
1963: Boss Guitar
1963: Portrait of Wes
1963: Guitar on the Go
1963: The Alternative Wes Montgomery (alternate takes for previously issued albums)
1964: Panorama (Produced by Orrin Keepnews)
Verve (19641966)[edit]
1964: Movin' Wes
1965: Bumpin' (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky)
1965: Smokin' at the Half Note
1965: Goin' Out of My Head (arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson)
1966: California Dreaming (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky)
1966: Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (with Jimmy Smith)
1966: Tequila (arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman)
1966: Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo (with Jimmy Smith)
1969: Willow Weep for Me (unused takes from the Smokin' at the Half Note session;
overdubbed woodwinds and brass arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman)
1970: Eulogy
A&M (19671968)[edit]
1967: A Day in the Life (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky) (A&M Records/CTI
1968: Down Here on the Ground (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky) (A&M/CTI)
1968: Road Song (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky) (A&M/CTI)
As sideman[edit]
1960: Cannonball Adderley and the Poll Winners (leader: Cannonball Adderley)
1960: West Coast Blues! (leader: Harold Land)
1960: Work Song (leader: Nat Adderley)
1. ^ Jump up to:





Allmusic Biography
2. Jump up^ "NPR Jazz Profiles the Life and Music of Wes Montgomery". 2010-12-08.
Retrieved 2012-06-25.
3. Jump up^ (Jazz Improv Magazine, vol 7 # 4 p. 26).
4. Jump up^ (, September 26, 2007).
5. Jump up^ "Wes Montgomery Biography". Retrieved 2012-06-25.
6. Jump up^ Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books.
p. 140.ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
7. Jump up^
8. Jump up^ Allmusic overview
External links[edit]
Official Wes Montgomery site
"Wes Montgomery Unedited" by Jim Ferguson, compiled from his Guitar Player
Magazine article on Wes Montgomery (August 1993), his JazzTimes article "The Genius Of
Wes Montgomery" (August 1995), and his essay in his liner notes to Wes MontgomeryThe
Complete Riverside Recordings (1992).
Wes Montgomery discography
GP2 Guitar Player Magazine Interview June 1973
Wes Montgomery guitar tabs
Wes Montgomery Park (Indianapolis)
Biography and tribute by grandson Anthony Montgomery
Find-A-Grave profile for Wes Montgomery