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Wes Montgomery

John Leslie Montgomery

Guitarist, Bandleader, Composer

(1925 - 1968)

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Wes Montgomery became a commercial success to the chagrin of jazz purists who equate that with “selling out.” Dan Morgenstern, in his review of Montgomery’s 1968 album Down Here on the Ground reprinted in Living with Jazz: A Reader, takes issue with the critics, lauding the guitarist’s individual musical personality. “You can’t manufacture that, but you sure can market it, and one of jazz’s most harmful myths is that if you do market it, and it sells, some mysterious essential change takes place: art is tainted by success.” Regardless of his success, Montgomery has remained a giant of modern guitar.

Born John Leslie Montgomery in 1925, Wes was raised in Indianapolis with two musical brothers, bassist Monk and pianist/vibist Buddy who later formed the nucleus of the Mastersounds. He came to the guitar late, at 19, and taught himself by listening to Charlie Christian recordings. He joined Lionel Hampton’s band in 1948 but returned to Indiana in 1950 to be with his wife and children. He played in local clubs where saxophonist Cannonball Adderley heard him and alerted producer Orrin Keepnews who signed him to a contract. Montgomery recorded his first Riverside album in 1959, and The Wes Montgomery Trio along with 1960’s The Incredible Guitar of Wes Montgomery put him at the top of the jazz polls.

Montgomery’s style is distinctive for his use of octaves and his warm tone, achieved by using his thumb rather than a pick. In her book Fancy Fretwork: The Great Jazz Guitarists, Leslie Gourse says, “Continuing along the path that Charlie Christian and his immediate heirs had blazed, Wes incorporated new developments in harmony and melody. And he took advantage of the ongoing improvements in electric guitars.” Keepnews said in the liner notes to Incredible Guitar, “Although the technically unbelievable feats Wes accomplishes on guitar may be the first things to catch one’s attention, his true and substantial jazz merit lies basically in the fire and deep soul with which he performs them.”

In the ‘60s Montgomery recorded with his brothers and with other jazz greats such as Adderley, vibist Milt Jackson, and organist Jimmy Smith. In 1964 with producer Creed Taylor he recorded the first in a series of albums with string orchestra, winning a Grammy for 1965’s Goin’ Out of My Head. But he continued to record with small jazz combos, and his 1965 album Smokin’ at the Half Note with the Wynton Kelly trio has influenced generations of guitarists.

In 1968, at the peak of his career, Montgomery died suddenly of a heart attack at age forty-three.

--Sandra Burlingame

Smokin' at the Half Note

Wes Montgomery, Wynton Kelly



Boss Guitar

Wes Montgomery



Full House

Wes Montgomery



Complete Live in Paris 1965

Wes Montgomery



Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo

Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery



Live in Belgium 1965

Wes Montgomery Quartet



The Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Wes Montgomery



A Day in the Life

Wes Montgomery



The Complete Riverside Recordings

Wes Montgomery



The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery
Reading and Viewing

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Wes Montgomery

Jazz Icons: Wes Montgomery Live in '65

Jazz Icons

DVD


Wolf Marshall, Wes Montgomery

Best of Wes Montgomery: Guitar (Signature Licks)

Hal Leonard Corporation


Corey Christiansen

Essential Jazz Lines: The Style of Wes Montgomery for Guitar Book/CD Set

Mel Bay Publications


Les Wise, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery, Johnny Smith

Jazz Solos for Guitar: REH Pro Licks Book/CD Pack (REH Pro Licks)

Hal Leonard Corporation


Wes Montgomery

Mel Bay Presents Wes Montgomery Jazz Guitar Artistry

Mel Bay Pubns


Adrian Ingram, Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery

Ashley Mark Publishing Company


Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery: Transcribed Scores

Hal Leonard Corporation


Peter Gaarn Jylov

Wes Montgomery Best of Boss Guitar

Mel Bay Publications, Inc.


Dan Bowden

Wes Montgomery The Early Years

Mel Bay Publications, Inc.


Various

Down Beat: Sixty Years of Jazz

Hal Leonard Corporation


Wes Montgomery

Jazz Icons: Wes Montgomery Live in '65

Jazz Icons

DVD


Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass

Legends of Jazz Guitar, Vol. 1

Vestapol

DVD


Wes Montgomery

Live in Hamburg 1965

DVD


Wes Montgomery

Twisted Blues

Salt Peanuts Spain

DVD


Adrian Ingram

Guitar Style of Wes Montgomery

Grossman's Guitar Workshop

DVD


Wes Montgomery

Full House

Jvc Japan

DVD


Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery - Belgium, 1965

Vestapol

VHS

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