Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Wes Montgomery The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound (Riverside 1959)

Adding ‘Style’ to Wes Montgomery’s debut album on Riverside, The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound, is more to the point. It constitutes the arrival of a guitar giant.

Wes Montgomery Trio - A Dynamic New Sound

Personnel

Wes Montgomery (guitar), Melvin Rhyne (organ), Paul Parker (drums)

Recorded

on October 5 & 6 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as Riverside 1156 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
‘Round Midnight
Yesterdays
The End Of A Love Affair
Whisper Not
Ecaroh
Side B:
Satin Doll
Missile Blues
Too Late Now
Jingles


Of this album, All Music says: ‘The only drawback is that the accompaniment, which though solid, doesn’t seem to perfectly match his guitar style… Montgomery’s performance was a revolution in technique and execution.’

That about sums it up. For readers of All Music and Ladies Home Journal. Nobody’s perfect and there must be more to the event of Montgomery’s marvelous recording debut on Riverside, released in the watershed year of 1959, which saw the release of three Ornette Coleman albums, Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Coincidentally, Wes Montgomery declined an offer from John Coltrane to join his group. Instead, he built on the promise The Wes Montgomery Trio held, securing a spot on the scene through his Riverside recordings as the greatest jazz guitar innovator since Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, a promise that was underlined first and foremost by Montgomery’s supple synthesis of single note lines, octave playing and block chords, effectively blown into studio and jazz club air by his distinctive, is-that-a-country-blues-picker’s?-thumb-touch, but certainly also by the subtle interaction of his group of childhood pals from Indianapolis, consisting of organist Melvin Rhyne and drummer Paul Parker, who’d grown into a tight-knit, mutually responsive outfit.

In his twenties, Montgomery landed a job with Lionel Hampton when the famed bandleader heard him copying Charlie Christian solo’s note by note, performed with his brothers Buddy and Monk regularly as the Montgomery Brothers and was featured on Kismet on Pacific, the LP of his brothers’ outfit The Mastersounds. Montgomery was noticed by a tongue-tied Cannonball Adderley in a Indy club, who introduced him to Riverside’s Orrin Keepnews, leading to a breakthrough at the ripe age of 36. The word that fits the impact of Wes Montgomery is: spellbound. Come on, from the moment Montgomery starts Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, the audience is melting, unable to resist the lure of Montgomery’s tasteful tale. In the confident hands of Wes, the micro-fragment of total silence marking the middle of Monk’s classic melody appears to be born for exactly that spot. The use of space, his timing, coming across especially enticing in his wonderful treatments of ballads, is one of Montgomery’s greatest talents.

In this sense, Rhyne is a perfect match to Montgomery’s classy style. His clear, logically developing lines and ‘plucky’ sound grace the bouncy, uptempo stop-time melody of the Montgomery composition Jingles, a swinging trio rendition. And to reciprocate Rhyne’s favor of charming, responsive backing, Montgomery smoothly accompanies the organist’s solo in The End Of A Love Affair, flowing from chord to chord like a pike-perch through the river weeds. The group’s take on Horace Silver’s Ecaroh is less spectacular, a medium-tempo groove that somehow doesn’t really gets into the groove, with, nonetheless, concise, excellent soloing.

Montgomery would reach the zenith of his recording career with the support of world-class guys like Johnny Griffin, Louis Hayes, Sam Jones, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan, Milt Jackson (Bags Meets Wes – wow – Full House – WOW) yet the total sum of The Montgomery Trio spells swing as well. At the core’s the style and sound of Montgomery, with a bite all his own. A fiery personality would be the incorrect way to describe Wes Montgomery- ringing through the articulate phrases is a man that didn’t want to be a nuisance to his neighbours, so he stopped playing with a plectrum and changed to the softer approach of his thumb – more apt is the assumption that the sparks fly (and they do fly high) almost solely on the strength of Montgomery’s dazzling brilliance and conception. His conviction, authority, is imposing. So much so that, once the driving Missile Blues, named after the club in Indianapolis, and the album is over, a new spin in order to fully enjoy and grasp the mastery of Wes Montgomery seems the best option to spend the next hour of the evening.

Buddy Montgomery - Rather This Than That

Buddy Montgomery This Rather Than That (Impulse 1969)

The blues-oriented album of vibraphonist and pianist Buddy Montgomery, This Rather Than That, also includes excellent modern jazz playing.

Buddy Montgomery - Rather This Than That

Personnel

Buddy Montgomery (vibraphone, piano), Melvin Rhyne (organ), Jody Christian (piano A4, B1), Manty Ellis (guitar A4, B1), Monk Montgomery (Fender Bass A1, A2, B1, B2, B4), Jimmy Rowser (bass A3, A4), George Brown (drums A1-4, B1, B4)

Recorded

on September 10 & 11, 1069 at Universal Recording Cooperation, Chicago

Released

as Impulse AS-9292 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
This Rather Than That
Tin Tin Deo
Rose Bud
Stormy
Side B:
Willy Nilly Blues
Beautiful Love
Didn’t We
Winding Up


Family ties: Buddy, of course, was the younger brother of Wes Montgomery and bassist Monk Montgomery, who’s also present on this album. Buddy and Monk were ‘buddies-in-crime’ in The Mastersounds from ‘57 to ‘61, a popular, accessible jazz group that also included Wes Montgomery on one album. (Kismet, World Pacific 1958) From ‘55 to ‘61, the three brothers also starred as the Montgomery Brothers, but they played together well into the period when Wes had become a bonafide jazz star. Buddy was part of the tour that ended so tragically with the passing of Wes due to a heart attack shortly after on June 15, 1968, in their hometown of Indianapolis. Also on this album is another Indianapolis-born musician, organist Melvin Rhyne, who appeared on four acclaimed Wes Montgomery albums. An Indy cousin, so to speak.

Following the death of Wes, Buddy Montgomery mainly concentrated on jazz education, although he kept on recording sporadically as a leader as well as a sideman with old pals in the late eighties and early nineties. (Bobby Hutcherson’s Cruisin’ The Bird, Charlie Rouse’s Epistrophy, David “Fathead” Newman’s Blue Head) Perhaps a place in the background suited Buddy Montgomery best.

Having said that, Buddy’s up front on the front cover of This Rather Than That. What about the fruit and vegetables? I’m not sure what he’s holding in his right hand. Looks like citrus and a pomegranate in his left hand. The symbol of fertility. The Egyptians believed that eating pomegranates granted immortality. The Greek godess Persephones was sent back to Hades every six months because she ate six pomegranate seeds. Heretics say that it was the pomegranate that lured Adam and Eve from paradise. It looks like Buddy is due at the Apollo Theatre for his Wednesday night juggling act.

Buddy Montgomery utilised a focused linear approach, quicksilver, definite phrasing and notes that allure like drops of fountain water. His notes ring shortly, matter-of-factly, more in the vein of Lionel Hampton than Bobby Hutcherson. Buddy Montgomery was an excellent, all-round vibraphonist. He’s very compatible with the tasteful Melvin Rhyne, who’s the king of understatement.

The blues tracks are backbeat-heavy, funky. Monk Montgomery’s electric bass playing (Monk Montgomery pioneered the use of Fender Precision bass in jazz as early as 1951 and featured it strongly with The Mastersounds) perfectly suit the blues tunes, but seriously barricades swing from the modern jazz cuts, in spite of Monk’s top-notch chops. Fine modern jazz has been played with the use of the electric bass. But to my ears, it has a hard time bringing coherence to the overall jazz sound in comparison to the way the upright bass does. The upright bass is for modern jazz what the rug is for Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski: it really ties the room together. Luckily, as in Tin Tin Deo, Buddy Montgomery and Rhyne share swinging responsibilities. Accompanied by deft, chubby organ chords, Buddy’s ultra-fast, probing lines slither like vipers in the grass, constantly moving forward. Rhyne answers the call and, regardless of the fast tempo, patiently builds a story free of clichés and counterfeit climaxes.

The group also performs a lush waltz-version of the show tune Beautiful Love. The finishing touch to a quirky but enjoyable album of jukebox blues and modern jazz.

Mel Rhyne

Mel Rhyne Organ-izing (Jazzland 1960)

Like a jubilant child eager to play with its long-awaited Santa Claus presents, I gave my recent purchase, Melvin Rhyne’s sought-after solo album from 1960, Organ-Izing, an immediate spin. The organist, best known for his work with guitar legend Wes Montgomery, delivers a tasteful, laid-back blowing session.

Mel Rhyne

Personnel

Melvin Rhyne (organ), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Gene Harris (piano), Andrew Simpkins (bass), Albert Heath (drums)

Recorded

on March 31, 1960 in NYC

Released

as as JLP 16 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Things Ain’t What They Used To Be
Blue Farouq
Side B:
Barefoot Sunday Blues
Shoo Shoo Baby


Rhyne was a native of Indianapolis, like Montgomery, who asked him to join his trio in 1959. The organist backed the groundbreaking guitarist on four splendid Riverside albums: Wes Montgomery Trio (1959), Boss Guitar (1963), Portrait Of Wes (1963) and Guitar On The Go (1959/1963). His articulate backing – Rhyne started out as a pianist – matched perfectly with Montgomery’s tasteful style, a coherent mix of melodic single lines, octaves and block chords. Rhyne’s sound on his solo album comes closest to that of the Wes Montgomery Trio album. It has that, as Dutch organist and Rhyne admirer, Arno Krijger, said to me in this interview, unique ‘plucky, percussive sound’. It’s a vibrato-less sound that enabled Rhyne to craft cleanly spun, logical, laid-back lines.

Organ-izing was released on Jazzland, a subsidiary of Riverside. The assembled crew includes two top-rate Riverside artists of the time, Johnny Griffin and Blue Mitchell: guys you can count on for a session of this kind. Griffin is his usual fast-fingered self, grounded in bebop and blues, and peppers his playing with humorous asides. Blue Mitchell stretches out ebulliently on, among others, his own attractive blues line, Blue Farouq.

The album consists of four tunes of the same medium tempo and four beat rhythm, which becomes a bit monotonous after a while. Then again, Rhyne is a mid-tempo maestro. He showed it with Montgomery, deepening considerably, for instance, the groove of Missile Blues on the Portrait Of Wes-album. Medium tempo suits his carefully crafted stories. Rhyne eschews uproaring climaxes and instead creates free-flowing endings, shying away from easy effects. He’s like a minimalist writer. But not just somebody. Rhyne’s the Raymond Carver of the Hammond B3. While reading (listening), one keeps contemplating on the enormously clever usage of deceptively simple language for maximum effect: words and sentences (notes, phrases) carved in stone for the ages.

The unusual combination of piano and organ is uncluttered, largely due to Rhyne’s understated style. Pianist Gene Harris of The Three Sounds trades choruses with Rhyne on all tunes except Shoo Shoo Baby, a feat which underscores the relaxed atmosphere of the proceedings. During such a spontaneous event, one (Harris) cutting short the evolving story of the other (Rhyne) in the mid-slow-draggin’ take on the classic riff Things Ain’t What They Used To Be is part of the charm. Unfazed, Rhyne supports a swinging Harris bit and continues with a solo that’s a lesson in soul and dynamics.

At the end of the decade, Rhyne quit the music business and moved to Wisconsin. He started recording again in the nineties and 00’s, mainly for Criss Cross. Rhyne passed away on March 5, 2013.