Sunday, February 01, 2004

Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery – The Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (Verve, 1966)

After very successful tenures for smaller labels in the 50’s and early 60’s both Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery moved into the big time, signing to Verve Records in the mid 60’s. This is the second of their two collaborations together, the other being The Dynamic Duo, released the year before.

Where the earlier record was dominated by big band charts, five of the six selections here focus on the core band of Smith, Montgomery, Grady Tate on drums and Ray Baretto on congas. The country music warhorse “King of the Road” is an odd track to start with, but it actually works quite well. Montgomery gets a nice solo spot, which features his distinctive use of octaves. Smith sticks close to the melody with an almost vocal-like solo. The moody and mournful “Maybe September” opens with Jimmy Smith playing with an almost church-like hymn feel giving way to Wes’ sad and moody single note solo. Side one closes with “OGD” which finds the group swinging again – Montgomery firing octaves over Smith’s comping and a heavy backbeat. Smith’s solo really turns up the juice, grinding and swirling over broken-beat percussion. He hands control over to Wes for a final run-through of the melody before taking it out.

“Call Me” kicks off side two with a latin feel, over which Montgomery weaves an interesting solo which alternates between piercing single-note soloing and chopping octaves. “Milestones” gets the full out big band treatment beginning with the (large) horn section blasting out the fanfare-like melody before giving way to Montgomery’s solo. He’s got an uphill battle going up against not only Smith’s organ fills (tasteful) and the horns which tend to blare and drown out Montgomery’s mild tone. Smith fares better in his solo spot, the organ much better equipped to stand up to the bombastic horns, whose sheer volume tends to overwhelm the music. Things get back on track with the final selection, “Mellow Mood,” which opens at a mid tempo without horns and allows the two principles to improvise collectively as well as trade solo spots.

All in all, this is an interesting meeting of the minds. While big bands and heavy arrangements played a big part in these two men’s work for better or worse during this period, this is a nice glimpse of two giants playing in a relatively unfettered atmosphere.

Rating: 8

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