Wes Montgomery

November 30, 2007

The Jazz Icons series presents entire concerts and studio performances by some of the greatest names in jazz, filmed during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Here, you get three sets shot in Holland, Belgium, and England during Montgomery’s 1965 spring tour. Backed by the Pim Jacobs Trio for the Holland show, we get to see Montgomery working out arrangements with pianist Jacobs, providing an unprecedented look at the guitarist as a bandleader. In Belgium, Montgomery is supported by three New York musicians, including the amazing drummer Jimmy Lovelace, resulting in a more American vibe. The English pick-up band includes future Mahavishnu Orchestra bassist Rick Laird.

Throughout all three films the camera stays mostly focused on Wes, with lots of clear close-ups of both of his hands. He keeps the fingers of his right hand anchored on the pickguard of his single-pickup ’63 Gibson L-5C, and uses his thumb mostly for down- strokes, though there are also numerous examples of upstrokes and even rapid up-down fanning. Single notes are played with his first three fingers, with the pinky only coming into play for octaves and chords. This inadvertent master class is worth the price of the disc, but the music is pretty damn good too! .
—Barry Cleveland

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