The Freewheeling Fun of Jazz Guitarist Wes Montgomery’s Live Concerts


Wes Montgomery
In the Beginning
Resonance

Near the end of his life, jazz guitar virtuoso Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) caught the ear of pop audiences with a series of records that were slick and sophisticated, but a little dull. This vibrant two-disc set is far more satisfying. Spanning 1949 to 1958, In the Beginning is dominated by live performances from Montgomery’s hometown of Indianapolis, in small-group settings that often featured brothers Monk (bass) and Buddy (piano), along with underrated tenor sax player Alonzo “Pookie” Johnson. The recordings aren’t perfect technically, and the playing isn’t always razor-sharp, but all concerned sound like they’re having a great time, especially Wes, who swings and struts with a freewheeling joy missing from his later work. Also included are five polished studio tracks produced by none other than a 22-year-old Quincy Jones, although these pale next to the spontaneous sounds of Wes Montgomery onstage, finding himself and having fun.

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