Wes Montgomery – So Much Guitar! (1961; 2013 reissue)

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Though it’s always existed in the shadow of Wes Montgomery’s earlier Incredible Jazz Guitar, there is much to recommend about this easy-swinging 1961 follow up for Riverside — beginning with his able young sideman Ron Carter.

Carter, of course, would go on to broad fame as a member of the Miles Davis group and as a first-call bassist on countless jazz recordings, but at this point was a wild-card selection by producer Orrin Keepnews for a date that already included tried-and-true figures like pianist Hank Jones and percussionist Ray Barretto. Formally trained and a learned player, he finds a series of wide-open spaces to tangle with (and then to brilliantly support) Montgomery on So Much Guitar!

This often-overlooked Montgomery gem is part of a five-disc reissue series celebrating the 60th anniversary of Riverside, along with the Cannonball Adderley-Milt Jackson collaboration Things Are Getting Better, Bill Evans’ How My Heart Sings!, Chet Baker’s Plays Lerner and Loewe and Mulligan Meets Monk from Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk. All are due July 23, 2013 as part of the Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Classics Remasters series.

Montgomery, who didn’t read music, must have presented a unique early challenge for Carter — and the bassist rises to the challenge, again and again, as the group tears through a set flecked with spirited covers (“Repetition,” a Neal Hefti item once associated with Charlie Parker), down-home ballads (“One for My Baby,” which shines a spotlight on his ace-in-the-hole pianist Jones) and at least one stone classic original in “Somethin’ Like Bags.”

Jones’ smooth facility is also brought to the fore on what Keepnews aptly describes as “thumb-blurring” take on “Cottontail.” The set is made complete by the famously fame-shy Montgomery’s only solo-guitar recording, a chordal take on Alec Wilder’s “While We’re Young.”

Of special note on this project are the bonus tracks — which actually amount to a second reissue of an upbeat set originally titled The Montgomery Brothers in Canada, recorded with his jazz-playing siblings in 1961 at the Cellar in Vancouver, in the very early morning hours of a Sunday after the patrons had gone home.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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