Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wes Montgomery - 1964 [1999] "Movin' Wes"

Movin' Wes is the twelfth album by American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, released in 1964. It reached number 18 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart in 1967, his second album to reach the charts following the success of his later release Bumpin'.
Movin' Wes was Montgomery's debut album on the Verve label. Produced by Creed Taylor, the album sold more than 100,000 copies initially, Montgomery's biggest seller to this point in his career.

Wes Montgomery's debut for Verve, although better from a jazz standpoint than his later A&M releases, is certainly in the same vein. The emphasis is on his tone, his distinctive octaves, and his melody statements. Some of the material (such as "People" and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker") are pop tunes of the era and the brass orchestra (arranged by Johnny Pate) is purely in the background, but there are some worthy performances, chiefly the two-part "Movin' Wes," "Born to Be Blue," and "West Coast Blues." 

A superb Verve/Creed Taylor recording first produced in 1965.
Much has been said of the so-called 'selling out' of jazzists--Wes was a hard-bopper, originally--and this was to have been his white washing or sell out album. That whole labeling thing, of course, is a bunch of B.S. Even hip hoppers would not mind being accompanied by a full orchestra and rhythm section. This is Wes' first with Verve, accompanied by an orchestra arranged and conducted by the great Johnny Pate: the recording was engineered by Phil Ramone and Creed Taylor.
"Theodora" is pure heaven, and "Born to Be Blue" is simply perfect. But I'm quite sure you'll find favorites among the nice selection presented here....La Barb's "People", Wes' "Moving Wes". The CD is like I said. Excellent, per-i-od.
In the liner notes by Gene Lees, he tells how Wes developed his style of playing. It is said he had an epiphany one day after listening to a Charlie Christian record. So much so that he went out and purchased a guitar and amp post haste and proceeded to strum the darn thing. He solicited the aid of a buddy to show him some chords and he commenced to playing--loudly, clumsily--with the aid of a guitar pick. His wife, being the person that she was, did not share in the epiphany and did not want Wes to be making that noise in the living room. Can you imagine that? So she requested that he move elsewhere in the house. He finds a corner and He plays some more. Nope--still too loud for the lady of the house. So, he turns the amp down a little. Nope, still too loud. So, he turns the amp down a lil more, gets rid of the pick and finds that thumb strumming style we hear in all his recordings. Talk about epiphany!
His wife finally, FINALLY approves and the rest is, as they say, history.
Thank God for that because the next step for ol' Wes may have been out on the curb with nothing but a guitar, an amp and a guitar pick...and no electricity! And we probably would have missed out of his greatness...
So, the moral of the story is, always, always give your spouse one more chance, even if it is hard on the ears.

This album contains some fine understated guitar work from Wes - He doesn't get the long extended solos of some of his more traditional jazz albums - nevertheless, one gets a magnified look at his approach as he sounds very relaxed against the Creed Taylor arrangements. Wes has the distinction of being one of the few instrumentalists who aren't ruined by this more commercial setting - Charlie Parker is one of the other immortals who strangeley benefitted from orchestration. I am blown away by Wes' octave and chordal work on this as well as some single line play on 'Caravan'. He is the envy of all guitarists! 

This recording is Wes Montgomery's first big band outing. This record was a milestone for Wes in many ways and showcases him in top form. The problem I have with some of these reviews on here is that as usual, they don't know what they're talking about and think because they have an opinion, which is not based on facts, or history, it should be considered valid. It's usually biased towards their own likes and dislikes, and lacks the experience to even know what they're listening to or for, which makes it totally about THEM and not about the artist and the music. The reviews often use blanket terms like "cheesy", "pop", and, "commercial" to make the recordings appear less valid than other recordings. What the heck does "cheesy" even mean? Not understanding what skills an artist and arranger has to have in order to make recordings such as this one, does a disservice to the artist, arranger, and the educated listeners who know the music, has seen the musicians, and understands the process. To suggest the compositions on this recording are inferior shows no knowledge of the composers, their works, or history, and that's just the first inaccurate bias. There are four songs written by Montgomery, one written by the great jazz pianist and jazz historian, Dr. Billy Taylor. "Caravan" and "Born To Be Blue" are old jazz standards, "Moca Flor" and "Senza Fine" are Brazilian standards, and "People" and "Matchmaker" are from two different famous theater plays. Jazz musicians have ALWAYS recorded songs from plays, not because of the play, but because of a song in it that they like. When people on the web write these reviews, they seem to think that they know as much about the music an artist chooses to record than the artists themselves. What arrogance; how something an artist considers to be beautiful, yet challenging can be so easily dismissed by these people with such disregard for the artist's own experience and musical expertise is just astonishing. If you like Wes Montgomery, wouldn't it be respectful to do some research on him before you go around trashing his recordings because they're not what YOU think they should be? How egotistical is that? Montgomery came up in the big band era, and his first traveling job was with Lionel Hampton. Wes' main influence, Charlie Christian, made major recordings with Benny Goodman's big band and Wes' love for big bands stems from those experiences. So it's only logical that he would devote many recordings to a big band setting because this is the style that helped to shape his concept of jazz guitar. What most people don't understand is that it takes a special skill to know how play with and fire up a big band. This is a skill that has been lost by jazz guitarists in the last 35 plus years. As far as the arranger Johhny Pate, this man's credentials far outweigh the uneducated opinion of one reviewer who accuses Mr. Pate's arrangements of being "cheesy", especially for 1965. If one were REALLY listening with experienced ears, they would hear the harmonically advanced band voicings being used throughout the recording. Another thing to pay attention to is the way Mr. Pate included the use of a tuba in his orchestrations. "Movin' Wes" was the first recording to showcase the many different sides of Wes' musical personality and his mastery of playing in a big band setting. It was Montgomery's big band experience that made this recording possible, and why you hear his familiar guitar sound soaring over the top of the band. People need to realize that to an artist, their recordings are like their children. You can't compare them to each other and say this one is better than that one. Being their parent, you know they are all different, and each have something unique to say, but you are still proud of them all. This is not to say that you as a listener have to like everything any artist does, but please have enough respect for that person's work to refrain from going online to criticize them as if you know more about their music than they do. THEY'RE the artist, not YOU. This is a landmark recording for Wes Montgomery, and like it or not, it is part of history. The people who know about him understands this, it's up to the uniformed listeners to find out what they are missing, and fill in the blanks.

Track listing:

 01   "Caravan" (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Juan Tizol) – 2:39
 02   "People" (Bob Merrill, Jule Styne) – 4:23
 03   "Movin' Wes, Pt. 1" (Wes Montgomery) – 3:31
 04   "Moça Flor" (Durval Ferreira, Lula Freire) – 3:12
 05   "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" (Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick) – 2:52
 06   "Movin' Wes, Pt. 2" (Montgomery) – 2:55
 07   "Senza Fine" (Gino Paoli, Alec Wilder) – 3:28
 08   "Theodora" (Billy Taylor) – 3:58
 09   "In and Out" (Montgomery) – 2:53
 10   "Born to Be Blue" (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells) – 3:40
 11   "West Coast Blues" (Montgomery) – 3:12

Personnel:

    Wes Montgomery – guitar
    Bob Cranshaw – bass
    Grady Tate – drums
    Willie Bobo – percussion
    Bobby Scott – piano
    Ernie Royal – trumpet
    Clark Terry – trumpet
    Snooky Young – trumpet
    Jimmy Cleveland – trombone
    Urbie Green – trombone
    Quentin Jackson – trombone
    Chauncey Welsch – trombone
    Don Butterfield – tuba
    Harvey Phillips – tuba
    Jerome Richardson – flute, saxophone, woodwinds

4 comments:

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  2. Excellent thanks.

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  3. Thanks a lot for this one, very difficult to find here in Brazil.

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