Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wes Montgomery - Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings (Resonance, 2019)

This new collection of recordings by the famous jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery is a series of previously unissued sessions recorded both live and in studio from his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. These recordings were made during the in the middle to late fifties by local piano player and arranger Carroll DeCamp. The first section of the collection features Montgomery with a pleasant piano, bass and drums trio, the perfect setting with which to display his talents. They play fine versions of some of his best known original compositions, "Four on Six" and "West Coast Blues." These are short and concise versions, with short statements of the theme and brief solos. Also recorded during this session were two Miles Davis songs, "So What" and "Tune Up," and a lengthy and moody performance of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" with some spacious patient playing using skeletal guitar lines. The next session covered places Montgomery among a Hammond B3 organ sextet with saxophone and trombone. The sound is a little cramped but the arrangements work pretty well, with a lengthy jam on the Montgomery original "Jingles" that stretches out well with horn riffs and brief solos and a fine feature for the guitarist. Also included are nicely soulful tracks "Ecaroh" by Horace Silver and "Whisper Not" by Benny Golson. The band develops a nice groove that percolates well with the guitar weaving between the horns and drums. The final session is from what they call a "Nat King Cole Style," a drummerless setting with Montgomery playing with just bass and piano. This chamber jazz group works well, with intricate interplay but still able to swing like mad, and these recordings make up the bulk of the overall compilation. This session consists of jazz and popular music standards, allowing for long developing performances of "It's You or No One," "Summertime" and "The Song Is You." This is a fine format for Montgomery, and it's a shame that he didn't get a chance to explore it more during the course of his truncated career. The extra space allows him to solo at length, clearly demonstrating the unique approach that he was developing to the instrument that would go on to influence generations of musicians. Resonance goes all out as usual in the packaging, with lengthy essays from scholar Lewis Porter and guitarists George Benson and John Scofield, along with excellent photographs and discographical information. It's a fine collection and fills in a gap in the recorded development of Montgomery's discography, presenting enjoyable music in the process. Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings -

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