Sunday, October 28, 2018

Wes Montgomery - 1963 [1990] "Guitar On The Go"

Guitar on the Go is the eleventh album by American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, released in 1963. It included tracks recorded in October and November 1963 as well as two from early 1959 sessions. It was Montgomery's last principal release for Riverside and he subsequently moved to the Verve label.

Guitar on the Go has been reissued on CD by Original Jazz Classics with an additional take of "The Way You Look Tonight" as well as a bonus track "Unidentified Solo Guitar". It was also released on the Fantasy label with the original track listing and the bonus track "Mi Cosa".

The final Riverside release of Wes Montgomery material (before the important label went completely bankrupt) was similar to his debut four years earlier: a trio with organist Melvin Rhyne and an obscure drummer (this time George Brown). In general, the music swings hard (particularly the two versions of "The Way You Look Tonight"), and is a worthy if not essential addition to Wes Montgomery's discography. He would have a few straight-ahead dates for Verve, but this release was really the end of an era.

The chronologically last Riverside album from Wes Montgomery picks up, mostly, where "Portrait of Wes" left off: a final few rounds with his beloved guitar-organ-drums trio format. Now, there are two ways to take this set, aside from the cool flame that seeps from every note sounded by the master and his longtime organist Mel Rhyne: 1) Take it on its own, and don't hold it against a collapsing company, changing ownership and lifestyle, that they repeat-released a pair of blues jewels from Montgomery's own pen, the early (as in, 1959) "Missile Blues" and the latter-day "Fried Pies"; or, 2) bypass those two numbers and put the rest onto a single disc with the "Portrait of Wes" material, if you really want to be prickly about it.

For me, I don't mind the repeat-released "Missile Blues" and (especially) "Fried Pies" (where Jimmy Cobb, the incandescent drummer with whom Montgomery would work again on the Half Note sessions with the Wynton Kelly Trio, joins Montgomery and Rhyne), if only because I had the habit of playing them repeatedly on their original album releases. Nor do I mind getting two takes of "The Way You Look Tonight," the shorter alternate take as lovely and lyrical as the nine-minute romantic monster that was issued originally. The "Unidentified Solo Guitar," not part of the original album, would be remade in due course (as "Mi Cosa," on "Bumpin'"), during Montgomery's Verve period, with a nicely arrayed string section, but taken here on its own it is just as embracing and would probably have been a perfect fit on the original release.

The more you hear of them, the more you come to wish Wes Montgomery had been able to bring at least Mel Rhyne along to his Verve years; Rhyne is attuned to Montgomery's gently fiery style in ways that even the great Jimmy Smith (cutting two magnificent Verve albums with Montgomery) couldn't quite lock in. Montgomery and Rhyne play as though completing each other's statements and knowing what the other man thinks and feels before it's expressed, so seamless are both the shifts from one to the other soloist and the knit of one or the other's accompaniment. Regular drummer George Brown was as painterly a drummer as Montgomery ever worked with.

You hear music like this and you're not in the least surprised that, whatever he did before or afterward, Wes Montgomery never felt as much at home as when working this trio format. And they make you feel right at home with them, even now. The Wes Montgomery Trio even in 2004 makes most of what has passed for jazz in their time and beyond sound somewhere between self-congratulatory and shiftless. It would be no disgrace if Fantasy, which controls the Riverside catalogue, should produce a box set composed strictly of the complete Wes Montgomery Trio recordings. This group, almost as much as its guitarist and leader, was a blessing upon jazz.

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City : November 27, 1963 - (Tracks 1 & 4), October 10, 1963 - (Tracks 2, 3, 6 & 8), April 22, 1963 - (Track 7), October 5, 1959 - (Track 5)

Track listing:

1. "The Way You Look Tonight" [Alternate take] (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields) – 5:48
2. "The Way You Look Tonight" (Kern, Fields) – 9:08
3. "Dreamsville" (Ray Evans, Jay Livingston, Henry Mancini) – 3:48
4. "Geno" (Wes Montgomery) – 2:53
5. "Missile Blues" (Montgomery) – 5:57
6. "For All We Know" (J. Fred Coots, Sam M. Lewis) – 4:29
7. "Fried Pies" (Montgomery) – 6:41
8. "Unidentified Solo Guitar" (Montgomery) – 3:37


Wes Montgomery – guitar
Melvin Rhyne – organ
George Brown – drums
Jimmy Cobb – drums
Paul Parker – drums