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Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery was one of the great jazz guitarists, a natural extension of Charlie Christian, whose appealing use of octaves became influential and his trademark. He achieved great commercial success during his last few years, only to die prematurely.

It had taken Wes a long time to become an overnight success. He started to teach himself guitar in 1943 (using his thumb rather than a pick) and toured with Lionel Hampton during 1948-1950; he can be heard on a few broadcasts from the period. But then Montgomery returned to Indianapolis, where he was in obscurity during much of the 1950s, working a day job and playing at clubs most nights. He recorded with his brothers vibraphonist Buddy and electric bassist Monk during 1957-1959 and made his first Riverside album (1959) in a trio with organist Melvin Rhyne. In 1960 the release of his album The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery made him famous in the jazz world. Other than a brief time playing with the John Coltrane Sextet (which also included Eric Dolphy) later in the year, Wes would be a leader for the rest of his life.

Montgomery's recordings can be easily divided into three periods. His Riverside dates (1959-1963) are his most spontaneous jazz outings, small-group sessions with such sidemen as Tommy Flanagan, James Clay, Victor Feldman, Hank Jones, Johnny Griffin, and Mel Rhyne. The one exception was the ironically titled Fusion!, a ballad date with a string section. All of the Riverside recordings have been reissued in a massive 12-CD box set. With the collapse of Riverside, Montgomery moved over to Verve, where during 1964-1966 he recorded an interesting series of mostly orchestral dates with arranger Don Sebesky and producer Creed Taylor. These records were generally a good balance between jazz and accessibility, even if the best performances were small-group outings with either the Wynton Kelly Trio or Jimmy Smith.

In 1967 Wes signed with Creed Taylor at A&M and during 1967-1968 he recorded three best-selling albums that found him merely stating simple pop melodies while backed by strings and woodwinds. His jazz fans were upset, but Montgomery's albums were played on AM radio during the period. He helped introduce listeners to jazz, and his live performances were as freewheeling as his earlier Riverside dates. Unfortunately at the height of his success, he died of a heart attack. However, Montgomery's influence is still felt on many young guitarists. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

A day in life....1
A great player with a unique approach and a style all his own. Most think of his octave-runs though there is much more to his playing than just that and his thumb. His technique of playing with his thumb gave his tone a warmth that is so pleasing. Love this man's playing. Wish I had one of his signature Gibson's too!
pam749
Gone to Sone! When Music was Music not tracks.
steve swallow was a great asset on bass
Love this music....... . . t h i s is music!
If Wes learned guitar in 1943 and Gabor Szabo was born in 36, simple math and logic would suggest that Szabo was influenced by Wes rather than a nearly grown man being influenced by a 7 year old.
niles52
one of my favorite guitarists.
Nectar!
Is one of the greats... I just luv his music... ;-)
jgubitz
I used to listen to him on a small FM station in Lansing,Illi n o i s in the late 60's. i had this new am/fm radio and found the station. They played a lot of his guitar music.
riicr48
Not sure how I ever discovered Wes Montgomery but one day I heard the song bumpin I had to go buy this album, when I play the album, I could not believe how great this guitarist wss
jsprag8054
The whole family continues to be musical. I have the pleasure of knowing and playing with his nephew Phil Ragland, a fabulous bass player.
rickp733
Hal, I always assumed it was the other way around. I had one Gabor Szabo album on 4-track tape and played it to death back in high school (1967ish), but at the same time was listening to my Dad's Wes Montgomery albums. Given that Charlie Christian invented this way of playing (def. NOT Django-esque ) , my guess would be that Szabo was influenced by Wes. It'd be nice to know -- I didn't find anything after a quick Internet search...
I may not be popular for saying this, but surely somewhere along the line Wes Montgomery must have heard Gábor Szabó (March 8, 1936 - February 26, 1982). Listening to Gabor, I think to myself that Wes sounds just like him...
A true legend before his time....
He played with his thumb then; what people are still unable to do without a pick today!!!!!
Before his time, why he left so soon...Play on Wes With Miles and the Count and the crew!
I love smooth jazz..its a great relaxer..
mbrownsanant o n i o
I have to agree, Wes, the Best!
King of jazz forever
Yes I think so as well I was introduced to his music as a very young woman but something about the music always stuck with me ,its the best.
In my mind, Wes Montgomomery was the greatest musician in the history of recorded music.
I luv jazz.it makes me relax
Wes is the best.
The fact that he was totally self taught is mind blowing. His use of chord solo's would blow away any Berkley graduate. His octave soloing was totally original also. Songwriter.. . . h e had it all.
the tune BUMPIN is so sweet
devi3333
What about talking about Wes and not this other guy?? I grew up listening to Wes, my dad's favorite.
Was introduced to the artistry of Wes Montgomery in Vietnam by some of my soul brother friends and am still a great fan today. Love all his music. Simply the best.
milgorjon
Always great to hear Wes!
Wes is one of the guys that introduced me to Jazz. His guitar playing is beautiful, elegant, complex...ye t totally accessible. Could listen to him all day.
melquiades18 9 1 - t r e e
So now when we want to read a bio of West Montgomery, we get Wynton Kelly?
joylady90056
Wes Montgomery's music always makes me smile and feel good.......g r e a t memories!!!!
I'm proud to say that I was named after this absolute legend. My Father and Mother have really got a good taste when it comes to music. Thanks Mum & Dad.
Paul Silbergleit is not on Pandora, but truly another modern day great jazz guitarists you should check out!
I saw him in Chicago on Wells st Jazz club just before he died..Great player..I have all his albums..died too young.
I grew up listening to him.
mtbnow6
The bio is not for Wes. Lame, guys. Totally lame.
this man and his guitar just awesome
I love his Boss Guitar. Wes was simply the best.
Had the pleasure of hearing Wes live back in 1966...The Golden Thumb as his title....Bum p i n , Bumpin' and Going Outa My Head
courtneymine h a r t
try: a day in the life!!
browndogohio
Love it all!
Great musician who passed way too soon and before his time.
wackini
Wes had a style that never has gone out of style. Whenever I hear his music I'm always impressed by its freshness, its life. It's a very uplifting sound. Hard to believe that it was produced by a master who passed on sometime back. Pure genius.
i have'nt heard Wes in decades this station is the it , play on player O know you have Bumpin on the Sunset ! !
Haha...wrong bio guys.
cherubinmoza r t
Wes is one of my favorite jazz musicians and I've been listening to him for many years. But it was a tremendous discovery to see him play on youtube videos; his thumb technic and his way to play octave are incredible.
gobob789
why is this bio about wynton kelly?
I WISH I HAD HAD THE OPPORTINITY TO SEE WES MONTGOMERY PERFORM. HE WAS TO HAVE APPEARED AT THE NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL WHEN I GOT THE BAD NEWS HE HAD DIED. SO CLOSE!
crossconnect 1
Wes is SUPER DUPER!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
aaron9055
one of the top 5 guitarists of all time...in any genre
What James Jamerson was on bass, Wes is on guitar.....
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