By Orrin Keepnews
The following session notes
are extracted from the marvellous booklet which accompanies the RIVERSIDE 12CD set
"WES MONTGOMERY - THE COMPLETE RIVERSIDE RECORDINGS" - RIVERSIDE 12CD4408-2
If you are a collector of jazz guitar music you cannot afford to be without this package which contains 95% of WES' STUDIO and LIVE output from 1959 through to 1963 in the order that they were recorded.
As well as the following session notes the booklet also contains
the original album art-work and remembrances of WES by guitarists Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall
and Kevin Eubanks and others. We are all indebted to Orrin Keepnews for his work with WES
during the time that these recordings were made and also for the SESSION NOTES.
When his recording career began in earnest, Wes Montgomery was exactly five months short of being 37 years old. Even setting aside the rather extreme emphasis on teen-age recording prevalent in the early 1990s (when this collection is being assembled), that is a very advanced age for a major-league jazz rookie. To build a complete list of earlier credits, it can be noted that he is listed (though not particularly audible) on a few studio sessions by the Lionel Hampton big band a full decade earlier, that a 1957 Montgomery brothers album was made in Indianapolis with several other local players, and that Wes is an added starter on a few '58 sides by The Mastersounds, the briefly very-successful group that featured his brothers Buddy and Monk.
But he had not become seriously interested in music as a possible profession until relatively late. According to such pieces of direct evidence as an interview by Ralph Gleason and the guitarist's own answers to biographical questions from the Riverside Records publicist, Montgomery was either 19 or 20 when he really began playing. By that time, he was newly married and about to be very seriously a family man: by 1959, Wes and his wife Serene had six children, and he dealt with that commitment primarily by staying in Indianapolis and working as much as possible-always at least one music gig, often supplemented by work at a noted local after-hours club, and frequently a non-musical day job as well.
So another way of looking at it would be that by the fall of 1959, the middle Montgomery brother was a mature, thoroughly experienced man and musician, with a fully developed and highly personal playing style, ready to take advantage of the opportunity that had suddenly and rather strangely come along.
As I reconstruct the timing, it must have been early September when I was vehemently first made aware of his existence. When Cannonball Adderley charged into my office at Riverside Records, he was just back from a one-nighter in Indianapolis. The Adderley brothers, both signed to Riverside, had already assembled what was soon to he a vastly successful quintet, and by the end of the month would have begun a pivotal engagement at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, but they were also completing a tour as featured guests on series of George Shearing big band concerts. After the show, the Adderleys had been taken to the late-night spot where the locally-legendary Montgomery was working. As Nat Adderley recalls, his brother's reaction had been so strong that I was spared an immediate middle-of-the-night phone call in New York only by the fact that there was no telephone in the club!
Cannon's brief monologue in my office ran something like this: "There's this guitar player in Indianapolis; we've got to get him for the label." I was lastingly impressed by hearing a jazz musician refer to the record company as "we"-and I was further struck by the major coincidence at work: that same morning, in the new issue of Martin Williams and Nat Hentoff's "Jazz Review," I had read Gunther Schuller's glowing report on Wes' trio. The simultaneous reports, from two normally unflappable and quite dissimilar musical sources, can with hindsight be taken as a definite omen: from then on, enthusiasm for this guitarist would come from literally every point on the jazz compass.
My immediate reaction was to want to hear for myself. I remember calling the Montgomery home, leaving a message with (inevitably) a child, and flying to Indianapolis. I checked into a hotel room I was scarcely going to use, and by mid evening had found the Turf Bar, which was local Montgomery headquarters. It was, I still clearly recall, very much a no-frills place, the kind with a big oval bar as the focal point of the room and the band inside the oval area-literally a "bar band." The first set had begun. I was able to get a bar stool almost directly in front of Wes, and it was really only a matter of seconds before I realised that I was listening to something truly different. Physically, my still-vivid recollection is of the thumb, moving so fast on the first uptempo number that (despite the fact that my vision tested at 20/20 in those days) it literally blurred before my eyes.
I was instantly convinced, and I strengthened my belief all night. Literally all night: around midnight, when he was finished at the Turf, there was a brief break for some food and conversation, and then on to the Missile Room, the non-legal but pretty openly tolerated after-hours club where the Adderleys had heard Wes. (Nat, incidentally, remembers the place as having been quite hip for 1959; its full name, he insists, was "The Guided Missile Room.") Montgomery continued to play, and I to listen, until maybe 6 A.M. Then, as dawn broke over middle America, I got real corny. I whipped out the printed document that had been in my pocket all night. It was the standard three-page recording contract then provided by the American Federation of Musicians, already filled in, dated (September 23, 1959), and signed by me, and on the spot Wes Montgomery became an exclusive Riverside artist. Looking back on the scene, I recognise that Cannonball had really done the job for me in advance. All I had to do was to hear and react; as Wes noted in his "bio" responses, he credited Adderley with making it possible for him to record for Riverside.
What I had heard that night was very much what the entire jazz world was soon to hear and marvel at. In an effort to get to work quickly (we couldn't really make up for all his lost time, but we could minimise further delay), and to put the least possible pressure on him, the immediate decision was to begin by recording the working trio. This meant that repertoire was already basically in place. And even on later sessions, with other musicians and more ambitious plans, and with slowly growing self-confidence on his part, there was little "development", if you take that word to mean drastic change. Certainly the seemingly-impossible devices were already at his command: the octave-spanning solo style and the pianistic block chords. And so was the lyricism, and the mastery of the blues. Not until his 1964 shift to Verve Records and to the production values introduced by Creed Taylor was there any dramatic difference, and that shift of course was to the large ensembles and pop-oriented material and arrangements that proved so commercially viable. From late '59 to late '63, Montgomery's recording approach, although never the music that resulted, was predictable. And that was good enough to make these 25 sessions among the most consistently satisfying I've been involved in.
SESSIONS 1 and 2
October 5 and 6, 1959
Less than two weeks after the sunrise contract-signing, Wes and his two hometown sidemen, organist Melvin Rhyne and drummer Paul Parker, flew into New York to record. Despite Montgomery's deep- seated aversion to airplane travel (which I didn't know about at the time), he had expressed no objections - perhaps not wanting to create problems with his new label, or maybe because he was eager to get this phase of his career under way. I did recently verify this with Rhyne, who I also asked about Kenny Burrell's account earlier in this booklet of my calling him on this occasion to borrow both a guitar and an amplifier for Wes. Rhyne was definite about flying from Indianapolis, and willing to believe that the rather beaten-up amplifier would have been left at home, but somewhat sceptical about the guitar. However, lacking clear-cut recollections of my own, I see no reason not to accept Kenny's version. I do have vivid memories of the sessions, beginning with my decision to make things as tension-free as possible by scheduling two days - rather than the much more customary one - at Reeves Sound Studios, on the East Side of midtown Manhattan.
(A note about Reeves, the first of two New York rooms that were consecutively the settings for most Riverside sessions. Bill Grauer, my partner and the business head of the company, had learned about the studio, which was used primarily for radio commercials. We were their first record-company customer. This meant that this properly high-ceilinged though rather cavernous room was rarely in use after normal office hours, and so, in 1956, Bill was able to make a revolutionary flat-fee deal. We would record almost entirely in the evening, would guarantee them a fixed yearly amount, and could use as much time-as many sessions, of whatever length-as we wished. A 6 or 7 pm start actually was quite well-suited to the life style and metabolism of our night-blooming artists, and not having to deal with the time pressure of hourly studio rates proved to be a great advantage. But there were drawbacks. One was that the room was really much too large for our usual small-group sessions, although by this time I had figured out how to group players and baffle off areas. Another problem was the staff engineer, technically adept but apparently determined to remain emotionally uninvolved, an attitude that was quickly sensed and not appreciated by most musicians. Only the first three albums reissued here were made at Reeves; there was then some West Coast recording, after which the New York Montgomery dates were held at our second local home, Plaza Sound. I'll fill in some detail on that venue in time; considering the importance of studios and engineers to the final product, it seems helpful to provide an idea of the nature of these settings)
My hope was to reduce tension; circumstances were not on my side. While warming up, Wes managed to break two guitar strings, and discovered that he had neglected to bring spares. Exercising a leader's prerogative, he assigned Rhyne to get the replacements - from a music store that was only a few blocks away and was still open. To get to the heart of this story, a reasonable and then an unreasonable amount of time went by and the organist did not return. What I recall as well over an hour had elapsed, and I know we had got fully into the process of calling hospitals, police stations, and the like, before Melvin finally returned. Totally unfamiliar with the city, he had taken a wrong turn after leaving the store; not recalling the name of the studio, he couldn't get the number and phone us for help; eventually he had turned a remembered corner and found his way back to us.
Perhaps the most remarkable facet of this story is that, once we did get started, the first number was "`Round Midnight", accomplished in just one false start and three complete takes, with a solo that has been ranked among Wes' most moving recorded efforts. Two other points of universal importance can be made before moving away from this opening number. One is simply that it can serve as a guide to Montgomery's classic solo pattern: there are three elements, beginning / with a single line, going on to parallel octaves, and culminating in block chords.
The second has to do with some necessary limitations on the word "complete" as used in the title of this collection and it's important enough to warrant a couple of paragraphs of its own. At Riverside, we tended to be much looser than our competitors, or colleagues (or however you prefer to describe Prestige and Blue Note), about letting musicians record the same number several times, in a generally elusive search for perfection, before moving on to the next tune. In theory this should have built up, over the years, a very substantial body of unused material, making my relatively non-dogmatic approach to record producing, seem brilliantly intuitive and farsighted. In actuality, it wasn't nearly that good. To begin with, absolutely no one foresaw the reissue craze that was some two decades ahead. The only goal in recording was to come up with sufficiently satisfactory versions of an album's worth of music; an out-take was simply a performance that was in some way flawed.
So, for a wide variety of reasons, a great many original reels of recorded tape failed to survive. They might have been destroyed or discarded; tape being a not-inexpensive commodity to us shoestring operators, it was often reused on another date; and in the case of a label like Riverside, with the body of tapes going through changes of ownership and cross-country travel, more than a few reels were simply lost. The great wonder, I suppose, was that any appreciable number of these presumably not-too-valuable reels did survive, even haphazardly. In some cases, then, nothing remains of a session except the master tape of initially issued material. In others, every good and bad note played that day still exists; and what becomes increasingly valuable is the recognition that there's nothing terribly wrong with a few clinkers. The aim of a retrospective like this one is not the same as our original goals: a wonderful solo far outweighs a few ensemble errors, and even an incomplete take is not necessarily to be ignored. In addition, and most frustrating of all, there's the survival of some but not all reels from a session. That's the case with this date: interesting preliminary attempts are on hand in two instances, but not the reel containing the first crack at `Round Midnight'- the recording card makes it clear that I had asked that it be kept, but it wasn't ....
On that first night, the tension of the delayed start quickly did take its toll; we thought we had finished four numbers by the time we quit, but when we returned the next evening, Wes wanted to try "Whisper Not" one more time, and it was that take - with the guitar sound brightened by adding more treble - which was used. In all, six of the album's nine selections come from the second session, and none presented any real problems, although it became clear that as a working unit this trio didn't worry about being too precise. Endings tended to he casual-to-sloppy, and the abrupt (about four seconds) fade that concludes "Ecaroh' is an after-the fact rescue job. As I recall, after running through ten selections in two nights (including quickly-abandoned tries at "Adios" and "Mean to Me" - neither of which survives), they had run out of prepared repertoire without quite reaching full-album time. So the Jerome Kern standard, "Yesterdays," was my suggestion, as was its loping tempo. Rhyne wasn't really too familiar with the number, which is why Wes is the only soloist; more than three decades later, this is a choice I remain very pleased with.
SESSIONS 4 and 6
January 26 and 28, 1960Orrin Keepnews:
The interwoven sequence of recording sessions for Montgomery's second album as a leader and his first appearance on someone else's Riverside project is the result of my finding it necessary to schedule a very busy week in the studio. Wes was still living in Indianapolis; the label, although wanting to get to work promptly on his next album, still had to spend money cautiously. So I was reluctant to bring him to New York for just one record; but Nat Adderley was interested in having not just a guitar but this guitar player on his next album, and it made sense to do both simultaneously.
Nat was a vigorous experimenter in those days; on this occasion he was combining a funky rhythm section with a three-man front fine consisting of cornet, cello, and guitar. It was my idea to alternate sessions; as it worked out, Nat's album started first, but Wes' finished earlier by a few hours!
This quartet recording was to be released under the rather provocative title, "The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery" - but I don't believe anyone gave us a hard time about it; after all, Wes was incredible. And, following the release of his first LP, musicians and critics were just about unanimously on his side. Sales were not overwhelming (the jazz public in those days tended to be rather slow to accept new artists), but the overall feeling was highly positive and I felt that the logical next step was to present Wes, quite accurately, as having been fully accepted into the jazz community. This was indeed an important point: the New York-based East Coast jazz scene at the turn of the Sixties was a close-knit and clannish one; outsiders had to earn their way in; and a highly touted, legend-in-his-own-time newcomer was most likely to be greeted with scepticism and suspicion. That was what had happened to Cannonball, for example, when he had come up from Florida a few' years earlier heralded as "the new Bird." But for this unique guitarist, that part of the journey was entirely smooth: his talent was so unmistakable, and his personal warmth so endearing (not an ordinary descriptive word, but I have chosen it deliberately and carefully), that there really were no nay-sayers.
So we turned to Tommy Flanagan - not yet, of course, the grand master he was to become, but already an important player-and the strong rhythm team of Percy and "Tootie" Heath. Percy, about two months younger than Wes, also serves to re-emphasise what a late bloomer Montgomery was: the bassist had worked with Dizzy Gillespie a dozen years before, was a fixture on the New York scene, and had been part of the acclaimed Modern Jazz Quartet since it was formed in 1954. The sessions both went down quite smoothly, although my recording sheets do reveal the first (of a great many) notations that a number would be tried again because "WM doesn't like [his] solo." Nevertheless, "West Coast Blues" needed only two takes; "Gone with the Wind" was performed only once. The hoped-for pace of four tunes per day was actually exceeded when a fifth selection was completed before we stopped recording on the first day. Our overall goal was a simple one - uncomplex might be a better word: a straightforward, swinging presentation of Montgomery as a superior melodist, blues-player, and stylistic innovator. We succeeded completely, as all elements fell into place, aided immensely by the accompanying players' high regard for Wes and by the fact that his four original compositions included his most attractive line ("West Coast") and one of his catchiest ("Four on Six"), the latter including a memorable bass figure that musicians still delight in playing.
SESSIONS 3, 5 and 7
January 25, 27, and 28, 1960
The parallel Nat Adderley album obviously could just as easily be considered as preceding the Montgomery LP, but I'm still influenced by the fact that the latter literally caught and passed the former. Nat's project was clearly the more difficult and ambitious one; it involved more people, an extremely unusual sound blend, tricky shifts of instrumentation and personnel, and at least one genuinely temperamental personality pianist/composer Bobby Timmons, whose funky, repetitive "This Here" was the key to the phenomenal success of the Adderley quintet's debut album.
That LP, recorded at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco just two weeks after Wes' first session and rushed into release before the end of 1959, was showing quick signs of becoming Riverside's first hit. But there were already signs of internal tension in that band; Timmons, in addition to a lot of talent, had both attitude and substance problems, and would shortly rejoin Art Blakey's Messengers, from whom he had departed to go with Cannonball just a few months earlier! Nat's session involved his brother's entire rhythm section, although Sam Jones was in a different role. (One of the major bassists of the period, Sam's unorthodox approach to the cello - he played strictly pizzicato, never using a bow - was being encouraged by the Adderley brothers. For a while he was given a feature spot; they even took young Ron Carter along on a European tour just to he the bass player on the couple of numbers that had Sam on cello).
We began without too much trouble. The balance between the slightly sour-sounding comet and the two plucked-strings instruments that were the other "horns" really sounded effective on the first two numbers: Cannon's "Sack o' Woe" and what would turn out to be Nat's most frequently recorded composition, "Work Song." But by the third, things were unravelling a bit; a still untitled Sam Jones original, it was given the name "Scrambled Eggs" (I think that was my idea) as a description of overall operating conditions. We stopped then and resumed, per schedule, on Wednesday the 27th after a smooth day's work, involving both Wes and Percy, on the other job. I don't recall what previous commitment made Heath unavailable for one day (he returned on Thursday to finish the Montgomery album); his replacement was the under-appreciated bassist Keter Betts. An old friend of the Adderleys', then living in Washington, D.C., and working with Charlie Byrd, Betts was later an Ella Fitzgerald mainstay.
Timmons was drinking; by the second number we were losing him again. That piece gets tricky: Betts takes the last solo on cello and stays there for the out-chorus, Jones having switched to bass. Bobby finished the take, but was then excused; the title of this original refers to the fact that he had fallen out, and the next two numbers were revised to be pianoless. At this point, there were still two slow ballads to be recorded, at a tempo that is always rough on trumpet players, and there didn't seem much sense in pushing the leader any further that day. That's the reason Sam and Nat showed up on the 28th as we were dealing with the final Montgomery selection and Wes, instead of being finished, joined them for the last two trio numbers of Adderley's album!
Considering his lack of recording experience, his general unfamiliarity with the New York pressure-cooker, the fact that he was working virtually simultaneously as leader and sideman, and that he was unexpectedly asked to be the only chord-playing instrument on two pieces-up against all this, probably the most incredible aspect of this crowded week was that Montgomery remained even-tempered and his playing remained on a uniformly high level. Apart from the emotional stress, the worst of it may well have been the need to substitute for the piano on "My Heart Stood Still" and "Mean to Me." Wes clearly preferred to think of himself as a horn. You'll rarely hear him "comping" behind another player's solo; it's just something he didn't care to do. (Nat's ballads had always been scheduled as ad-lib trio performances, and that's another matter).
It should be apparent, from the total lack of alternates from, these two projects, that the entire week falls into the no-extra-tape category. I don't know why, and no one could want any more than I to hear variant takes of "West Coast Blues" or "Work Song," but nothing has survived.
SESSIONS 8 and 9
May 17 and 18,1960Orrin Keepnews:
The scene now shifts to California for several months, largely because Monk and Buddy, the older and younger Montgomery brothers, are now living in the San Francisco area and Wes, temporarily leaving Indianapolis in an effort to convert his newly-regenerated career into a decent livelihood, is using this location as a home base. The next two albums continue - and conclude - his activities as a sideman. Perhaps because of his late start, leading to his being musically matured by now and not really in need of any further apprenticeship, Montgomery did extremely little playing for other leaders: just three LPs, then two shared with his brothers (one of those co-led by George Shearing) and a "meeting" with Milt Jackson. Nothing at all on other labels. In retrospect, it's almost as if he sensed how limited his time would be.
His appearance on this Harold Land album was almost a reflex action, taking advantage of Wes' presence in the area and the fact that they had enjoyed being teamed up for some club work late in 1959. We had just signed Land (Texas-born, one of the few hard hop players on the cool West Coast, and best known back then for having preceded Sonny Rollins in the Clifford Brown-Max Roach group), who had impressed me barely three weeks earlier with his work on a hastily re-organised "live" Thelonious Monk date at the Black Hawk. I was now on hand for various activities stemming from a Cannonball Adderley Quintet engagement at San Francisco's other jazz club, the Jazz Workshop; it turned out to be a two-and-a-half album week.
It actually began with Barry Harris's Riverside debut; the Detroit pianist had by now briefly replaced Bobby Timmons, and we recorded an off-night (Monday, May 16) appearance at the Workshop by the Adderley rhythm section. As planned, the next two days were spent with that same trio supporting Land and Joe Gordon; both brought up from Los Angeles, and Wes. On the surface this looks to be a "blowing date" in the tradition of Prestige Records' offhand jam sessions, but to me it's a good example of how the Riverside pattern frequently overcame lack of pre-planning or rehearsal time. The rhythm section was a working unit; Land had separate playing experience with each of the other front-line musicians; Montgomery had recorded with Jones and Hayes; and Gordon (a more-than-promising trumpeter who died young, in a fire at his home) was from Boston and a veteran of a Dizzy Gillespie big band. The repertoire involved three originals by the leader that he had no trouble explaining, Montgomery's appealing but not difficult blues, a universally-known Charlie Parker fine, and a standard ballad. Above all, two days were made available for recording. Admittedly, nothing earthshaking occurs, but it's cohesive, relaxed, imaginative-and it swings.
This week, incidentally, was my first working experience with the late Wally Heider, a huge, friendly, crew-cut man who loved the music and was also a technically brilliant and intuitive engineer-perhaps the best I've ever known in non studio situations. At that time I was unable to find a satisfactory studio in that area; we were set up on the stage of what was then a labour union meeting hall and has since become a theatre. Heider was recording Wes for the first time, and studying the situation; before long, he would come up with a vastly improved means of capturing his guitar sound.
May 21, 1960Orrin Keepnews:
The main reason for my West Coast trip had been this unusual Cannonball project. As a major Wes Montgomery enthusiast, he had wanted to combine with him in some unique way (he was challenged, but undaunted, by his brother's earlier effort). Adderley was also a long-time Ray Brown fan; Ray lived in Los Angeles, so once that much was established, this was destined to be recorded in California. Our only real problem came from Cannon's refusal to settle for a routine rhythm section; and when he decided that vibraphone would give us a really intriguing sound blend, he then persuaded me to go along with a player neither of us had ever heard!
Victor Feldman had not been in Los Angeles from England for very long, but his work on vibes had strongly impressed musicians whose opinions Adderley respected. He already had a busy studio schedule, but would be able to come to San Francisco for two days during our desired time frame. We set the first day for rehearsal; Cannon thought he had made his repertoire decisions, but we were polite enough to listen to a couple of tunes Victor had brought along. So this very Caucasian, very British young man sat down at the piano. You can hear the compositions; both of them were recorded the next day. But you'll have to rely on my description of five of us - Cannonball, Ray, Wes, Louis Hayes, and myself-standing open-mouthed and awe-struck at the roots piano we were hearing. I was (not surprisingly) the first to speak, and I remain proud of my rhetorical question: "How can the same man look like Leonard Feather and sound like Wynton Kelly?" (To fully understand, you need only know that Leonard is by birth very British and that Wynton was, in our circle, the most admired pianist of the day.
The two Feldman tunes and one by Barry Harris, and rather more piano and less vibes than originally intended, gave us our planned half-album the next day. Wes plays well (it is easy to fall into the trap set by his incredible command and rank as "routine" performances that, if played by another guitarist, would move you to cheers or to tears). However, it is clear that on occasions like this he is content to just be one of the gang, reserving his awesome peaks for his own sessions - although I very much doubt that there was anything intentional about it. It is, of course, the same hall and engineer as earlier in the week; and there is not a trace of alternate material from any session.
June 5, 1960Orrin Keepnews:
I know very little about this date; I was back in New York and, the Adderley band having moved on to a Los Angeles club, the Poll-Winners album was completed in that city. (That title was calling attention to the fact that Ray Brown always, and Wes Montgomery as of 1960, finished first in all magazine polls and there were several each year back then). Cannonball is responsible for the two obscure show tunes; Wes is able to handle them, but is much more at home with the Charlie Parker standard. Finally, a preserved out-take; not only at a distinctly different tempo, but one that someone in the control room had marked as "a possible master". This is Wally Heider in the studio where he regularly worked in those days, although he very professionally was seeking to match the inevitably less controlled sounds of the previous month's "location" recording at the union hall.
(This album was one of several Adderley albums reverting to him after the fiscal collapse of Riverside Records in 1964 and then being acquired from him by Capitol Records. It has previously been reissued only as part of a series on the Landmark label by arrangement with Capitol).
October 12, 1960Orrin Keepnews:
This Los Angeles session brings us back to the major business of albums under the leadership of Wes Montgomery, and presents the first full-scale opportunity to hear him in performances that, for a wide variety of reasons, were initially not chosen for release.
[That would seem to make this an appropriate place to comment on the issuing of alternate takes, and to point up the danger of using the adjective "rejected" in describing such material. As the original producer of virtually all these sessions and a great many others, I remain vividly aware of the virtues and the drawbacks of the generally loose and spontaneous approach to jazz recording during this period. Rarely, if ever, did we reach the degree of near-perfection that makes it possible to announce that this is the one and only take. Very often we quit with several "possibles" and made a choice often for shadowy or arbitrary reasons-days later. Editing together portions of two or more takes was not uncommon. Above all, while a flawed ensemble passage, or a breakdown that prevents the completion of a take, would obviously keep it from being part of the original album, a "complete" compilation like this is very much the proper place for including an exceptional solo, a valuable moment, or an abandoned alternative approach that would otherwise never he heard. On occasion, a snatch of conversation, even a word or two, can add to the retrospective view. It's a good idea to avoid the hesitant take that obviously still needs more rehearsal, the embarrassing mistake, the missed cue. But if the reissue producer has a decent ear, some understanding of original circumstances, and a reasonable set of ethics, there's a lot to be gleaned from bypassed performances. This is particularly true with a stubbornly self-deprecating perfectionist like Wes Montgomery. My original notes show lots of additional takes made only because he was less than satisfied with a version that everyone else in the room bought].
The personnel on this date indicates that once again I'm in the same city as the Adderley band. It also shows that Cannon had acted on his own intiative and hired Victor Feldman (although after a short stay, Victor decided against life on the road and in favour of the more sane if less creative world of the studio musician). The other horn is once again James Clay, a talented flautist and tenor player out of Texas and the Ray Charles band, an excellent foil for Wes here, but he has spent most of the intervening years back home in Dallas.
We are back with Wally Heider in the United Studios; this time Montgomery is the focus of attention, and midway through the session there is a significant breakthrough. Wes has raised some objections to the guitar sound on the first take (issued here for the first time) of his original "So Do Tit". The recording sheet indicates some 'tests' and from that point you might be able to hear a difference - not a glaring change, but a tangible one. In those days before multi-track, overdub and extensive mixdown, you generally took what you could get, but not Heider. In essence he foreshadowed things to come by recording the guitar in two ways; through a microphone at the amplifier in the studio, which was standard, and also by direct input from the instrument to the control board. What went onto tape was an immediate mix of both elements. The result was a fuller and warmer sound, possibly the beginning of the emphasis on Wes' lower register that was to be one of the keys to his later success in the pop-music world.
There's another 'lower' sound to be understood on this date as well: on the first three numbers it comes from Montgomery's use of what is accurately, but somewhat confusingly called a 'bass guitar'. The confusion might stem from the later use of that term to describe an electric bass, while what we have here is a larger six-string guitar tuned down a full octave. Wes was in search of a deeper sound to contrast with Clay's flute and borrowed this one from a Los Angeles musician; my recollection is that it was Irving Ashby, who had played for several years with Nat "King" Cole.
Alternative takes are included on four of the seven selections. To begin with, the originally issued "Tune Up" was the first complete version, although the later version had been preferred at the time of recording. (A strikingly different approach to this classic, which Miles Davis either wrote or lifted from "Cleanhead" Vinson, appears later on Montgomery's first with-strings album).
"Body and Soul" demonstrates one special advantage of reissuing sessions you had worked on in the first place - it's called hindsight! At the time I had rejected the first full take of this number (although I had marked it "Hold," which in my system is approval second only to "OK") because each soloist had played two choruses, making the take eleven minutes in duration, which I bluntly called "too long." I was quite wrong; it is the best take, the solos are just fine, and there's nothing at all excessive about eleven minutes that's full of good things and sounds a lot shorter. I am pleased to be able to reverse myself. This is followed by a version, also marked "Hold," in which an excellent slow opening melody chorus then breaks down, but was readily spliced onto the immediately-played continuation. The problem here is revealed by my notation of "WM doesn't like his solo - to which is added my somewhat testy continuation: "but others do." Take 7 is the one that satisfied both artist and producer; it is well worth hearing, but so are the other two.
It's almost illegal for there to be three takes of "Movin' Along" - one of our session rules was that if you can't get a blues within two takes you ought to quit. The problem, again, was that Take I began as an "OK" but was downgraded when "WM finally decides" against his solo. The initially issued Take 5 provides me with another opportunity to second - guess myself. As recorded, it opens by repeating its 12-bar theme, which I found unduly repetitious. So I surgically removed the first twelve. On returning to the original tapes (all session reels of this project have survived), I found that mutilated start still sitting there and proceeded to reinstate it. By now it's too late to apologise to Wes - always a gentleman, he had never complained - but for a long time I've felt that I went too far in making that change, and I'm glad to be able to make this belated correction.
Despite the concern Wes had expressed after the first take of "So Do It," leading to Heider's change in recording technique, there was really nothing wrong with the performance (which I had marked as a "Hold" at the time), and it certainly warrants inclusion. At that point we were planning to end by fading out, although that had been changed to a definite ending by the time the originally issued take was made. That procedure called for the musicians to continue playing the final vamp until told to stop; the actual "fade" was accomplished later, during the editing process. This seems like a good place to demonstrate the studio reality by including everything played, up to the point where, as producer, I decided I had enough material to work with and halted them with a polite "thank you" from the control room.
January 3, 1961Orrin Keepnews:
The scene shifts back to New York, where the newly - reunited Montgomery Brothers band was working and where they began a new year by making their first joint Riverside album. It was very much their preference to work together as they had back m their hometown; Wes had felt like a fifth wheel when they tried making him an added member of The Mastersounds, but now that he was out in the world and definitely establishing a strong reputation, it seemed feasible to go out on the road under a Montgomery Brothers banner.
Monk and Buddy were newly signed to Fantasy (then under its original ownership and not yet affiliated with the several other jazz catalogs it now controls), a plan for alternate recording of the group had been worked out, and the brothers had already made their first of two Fantasy LPs. My recollection is that work and travel pressures forced us to record in a single day - it was the first working day of the year - or else we certainly would have delayed part of the project until Buddy's vibes could have been repaired. It was his intention to divide his efforts about evenly between his two instruments, but the motor on his rather travel-weary vibraphone refused to co-operate and with only one exception he is heard strictly on piano.
[The studio was again a totally unfamiliar one to Wes. While he had been recording in California, Riverside had shifted from the room where he had worked on his own first two albums and Nat Adderley's. Since May of 1960, we had a new basic New York studio. I don't clearly recall the business reasons that led my partner to make the move, but the outlines of our Plaza Sound formula were much the same as at Reeves: mostly evening recording, and an annual price that gave us the freedom-from-pressure of almost limitless hours. In some respects it was a definite improvement. The room, although too large, was far more practical. A former NBC broadcasting studio, it was acoustically superb; since it was also being used for other recording, there was no mystery about how to alter it for small sessions. We now had our own staff engineer, Ray Fowler, who had been a trainee at Reeves. (Although short on experience at the start, he developed a good working relationship with many of the frequent Riverside musicians). The studio's location had one glamorous plus and one horrendous logistical minus. It was in the Radio City Music Hall Building; you entered through the theatre's stage door. But it was on the seventh floor, and the elevator only went to the sixth. That final flight of stairs did not endear us to drummers and bass players. And to answer an inevitable question: we were told that the piano had been hoisted up on the outside just before the building was completed. No substitutions were possible; thus Bill Evans, who disliked the instrument, made only one session there as a leader].
Most original tape reels being available, this is another opportunity to marvel at Wes' unceasing talent for improvisation. The very first number is a notable example. The issued take of "Doujie" was the next-to-last; the guitar solo is played completely in octaves. The alternate, which had been played immediately thereafter, has an entirely different, much less laid back, single-line solo. (And to complete the picture, move to the end of the session, when Buddy turned to his vibes for one more version of "Doujie"; without the motor the instrument has no vibrato and sounds quite hard. It's an interesting take that I rated as a "Hold," but it has remained un-issued until now.)
There are variant takes on two other tunes, one of them a Buddy Montgomery composition whose title is a punning reference to the founder of Pacific Jazz, the label that had launched The Mastersounds. For its appearance on Riverside, I had arbitrarily altered the title to "Back to Back." Three decades later, I'm restoring its status as a tribute to, the late Dick Bock.
August 4, 1961Orrin Keepnews:
The next Wes Montgomery album had no special circumstances or problems, just straightforward examples of his awesome talents with the kind of supporting cast that serves as a reminder that it was (and usually still is) a good idea to assemble a jazz date in New York, where there's no need to worry about who's playing in town, since practically everyone has his home base there. Hank Jones was recognised even that long ago as one of the best; Ron Carter has advised me that this was the first record date he was called for after permanently settling in the big city, but the word was already out about his vast promise (I think it was, once again, the Adderley brothers who had alerted me). Lex Humphries had already worked with Gillespie and with a Benny Golson/Art Farmer group, but somehow didn't stick on the scene. Ray Barretto, later a noted Latin bandleader, frequently was used as he is here, in a non-Latin way, to touch up a basic rhythm section. It was a device frequently employed on horn players' dates and only this once by Montgomery. I presume that he heard it as befitting the repertoire, which was entirely of his choosing and included some intriguing surprises:
"Repetition," for example, was known only as a Neal Heft piece on which Charlie Parker had recorded virtuoso choruses over a strings background; "Cotton Tail" was also a saxophonist's feature, being Ben Webster's uptempo speciality with the Ellington Orchestra; and "While We're Young" is almost the only unaccompanied solo Wes ever taped (there's another, unplanned one on his next-to-last session). Unfortunately, this is a session from which no original reels survive, so we have no out-takes for comparisons, but it all seems to have gone quickly and smoothly, with not too many takes, not a single "WM doesn't like .." notation, and only two listed versions of the long, remarkably evocative Harold Arlen mood piece ("One for My Baby') that is the session closer.
In addition, my ears seem to tell me that Fowler was making good use of the technique devised by Heider; I know he continued to use and perhaps refine it, and the "mellow" sound, which definitely pleased Wes, became a recognisable trademark.
SESSIONS 15 and 16
October 9 and 10, 1961Orrin Keepnews:
Geography and circumstances have returned us to Los Angeles, United Recording, and Wally Heider. George Shearing was a sincere and outspoken fan of the Montgomery Brothers, and had sat in with them on a couple of occasions. When George let it he known that he would like to record with them, a highly coincidental sequence of events began to fall into place. John Levy, a very active personal manager who had Shearing and Cannonball Adderley as two of his major clients, was also handling the careers of the Montgomerys' and of a promising young singer named Nancy Wilson. She was under contract to Capitol-where Shearing was a big pop-jazz seller in those days - but had not really got off the ground. Levy, prompted by the knowledge that Cannonball was interested in helping Nancy get started, came up with an interwoven mutual help plan: Shearing would go into the studio with the Montgomery Brothers for us; Nancy and the Adderley quintet would be co-featured on a Capitol album. (It all took place as proposed, but not with uniform results. Nothing much happened with our effort, but the record with Cannonball was a breakthrough, the launching pad for Naney's long career.)
In retrospect, our record suffered from trying too hard to be "commercial," which has never been the road to jazz success for me. The group has exactly the classic Shearing Quintet instrumentation (Buddy, of course, plays vibes throughout), and it sounds too much that way. There's enough real talent here (certainly including George) to keep this from being a bad record, but it plays everything much too safe, with few rough edges, and invariably brief solos in short takes. However, I should bear in mind that I'm making an entirely subjective evaluation, and it really might not have been possible to create a stronger package. When I returned to my hotel room after the second session, I phoned New York to inform my partner that I had just completed the most overtly commercial record of my life. As soon as I hung up, there was a call from Shearing; he wanted to thank me, he said, for enabling him to play more jazz than he had in years ....
This was the last Brothers album. Despite Wes' growing fame, the unit wasn't proving to be a drawing card. Club owners didn't help when, to the group's annoyance, they altered the billing to "Wes Montgomery Quartet." Unable to work as they wanted, the three decided to defer this particular family dream; ironically, they reunited in Wes' last years as the Wes Montgomery Quartet.
SESSIONS 17 and 18
December 18 and 19, 1961Orrin Keepnews:
There's no question about the jazz content of Wes' next sessions. He and Milt Jackson had become close friends, and were determined to work together; the vibraphonist was newly signed to Riverside, and a co-leader album seemed an excellent way to introduce him as part of our line-up. It was also my first chance to put Wes together with what had become my favourite rhythm section: Sam Jones (with whom he had recorded before), Philly Joe Jones, who I considered the best recording session drummer in jazz and the remarkable Wynton Kelly, an incredibly supportive pianist for whom you could easily get testimonials from Dizzy, Cannonball, Miles Davis and lots more.
Kelly was also a brilliant improviser - which is equally true of Bags and, of course, Wes - making these sessions ideal source material for the demonstration I had in mind for this collection: to come up with an alternate for every selection on one album. Fortunately, all original reels were on hand. In four cases, variant takes had been used in earlier reissues, but three are being heard for the first time: "Stablemates", "Sam Sack," and "S.K.J." (The last title is easily explained; it's Mrs. Jackson's initials. As for "Sam Sack," the name points up the tune's derivation, it being based on a phrase in Sam Jones's solo on Cannonball's original recording of "Sack o'Woe").
As for the recording sessions, they went down as easily as you'd expect - with one strange exception. That was Montgomery's "Jingles," which seems simple enough, and wasn't even a new tune (it's on his Riverside debut album), but which beat up on all five players through Take 12 and was eventually put together by after-the-fact splicing, although Take 8 (on which Wes originally had doubts about the opening chorus) now seems sufficiently pulled-together to use.
June 25, 1962Orrin Keepnews:
In the two-and-a-half years I had been producing the guitarist, I had come to agree with the frequent comments, particularly from musicians, that he seemed comparatively inhibited in the studio and really should be recorded under performance conditions. One major drawback was that he didn't have a regular working group. Recording in a club has a full set of special problems; to compound the difficulties by using a pickup band, even a highly talented one, is asking for too much trouble. But when Wes reported the existence of a wonderfully relaxed coffee-house in Berkeley, California dust across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco), where he had an open invitation to work the Monday off-nights, I began to examine the possible logistics. In, the near future, Miles Davis would be in the city, at the Black Hawk. His rhythm section - Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb - was a thoroughly locked-in, intuitive unit. At the same time, Johnny Griffin (a good friend, highly adaptable, a Wes Montgomery admirer) would be at the Jazz Workshop and also available. It seemed worth gambling on.
We squeezed in some rehearsal time during the week, weathered the minor storm of Miles' opposition to our using his entire rhythm unit, (Wynton shut him down by asking: "If I don't play the date, will you pay me what Orrin was going to?"), imported the valuable Wally Heider, and spent a full Monday evening everyone's off night at Tsubo's (I have no idea what, if anything, the name means) recording before a turn-away crowd.
Of course there were problems. I never could understand Heider's insistence on setting up for a "live" session so that he could not see the musicians. I was braced for the likelihood that Chambers would he almost too drunk to play by the last set (try not to listen too carefully to the bass on "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face"). But Wes fitted in with that rhythm section as if he'd been doing it for years - and some time later did spend almost a year touring with this Wynton Kelly Trio; he did function with more flow and freedom than on almost any studio date and since he was on the bandstand, I didn't have to listen to him criticising himself after every number!
It was not easy making final choices, and we did have trouble dealing with the length of some performances in view of the time limitations of an LP side. But the album we assembled was a very strong and exciting one, and what is now possible in this more complete Compact Disc set is in my opinion even more exciting. Virtually everything that was played can be considered usable; the fact that neither take of "Born to Be Blue" has a clean enough ending was sufficient to keep it un-issued at that time, but it doesn't mean much now. The originally issued version of "Blue 'n' Boogie" omitted a couple of blues choruses by Wes, in a desperate fight to hold down the total time; that chunk of music has now been restored. Obviously, the correct sequence here is the way the sets were played, so what we're able to offer is quite close to what went on in Berkeley that night. All that's lacking is the ambience, and I can recall some of that - like the way the people on line outside, eventually despairing of ever getting into the club, were able to gather in the parking lot between sets and listen as we turned the volume way up while listening to playbacks between sets.
SESSIONS 20, 21 and 22
April 18 and 19,1963Orrin Keepnews:
The usual summation of this brilliant artist's brief but flamboyant recording career is that he created a series of smallgroup jazz classics, produced by me, at Riverside, and then went on to large-scale, pop-oriented success, under the guidance of Creed Taylor, at Verve and A&M. By and large, that is accurate, but a bit oversimplified. I am aware of an excellent "live" quartet album on Verve (with the Wynton Kelly Trio), and I am certainly aware and quite proud of the very first big with-strings Wes Montgomery album, the result of these three Riverside sessions. Our approach was somewhat different - I clearly recall Wes' request to arranger Jimmy Jones at probably our first planning meeting: "Make me sound like Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle" - and our repertoire was more in the vein that has now become known as "traditional pop", including Ellington and Rodgers & Hart and a then-recent Broadway show tune like "Somewhere" from West Side Story. So I am not claiming to have shown Taylor how to do it, but this was the initial step in the creation of a new and immensely successful musical persona for the guitarist.
Although the Sinatra/Riddle analogy was an astute one (some comparative listening should prove interesting), I continue to feel that Jones's charts reached levels of taste and originality that are at least rare and possibly unique in the much maligned field of "jazz with strings." A lot of such writing deserves to be maligned, but there's nothing corny or syrupy here. Jimmy, a friend and associate of Ellington and a long-time Sarah Vaughan accompanist, is particularly successful in creating counter-melodies against and over which Wes' uncluttered lines sound both dramatic and beautiful.
We played these sessions extremely straight as far as logistics was concerned. Jones probably did all the selecting of personnel; at least it was his chosen concertmaster who hired the nine violins, two violas, and two cellos; and the basic rhythm section was handpicked by him-although Kenny Burrell's presence in the rather unusual role of acoustic rhythm guitarist was apparently in response to a direct invitation from Montgomery. The alternating use of Dick Hyman and Hank Jones on keyboard was strictly a matter of limited availability. Possibly awed by the presence of all those first-call studio musicians, I worked strictly in accordance with the union rule book; I had called three separate three-hour sessions-and it was done exactly that way: a double the first day and a single to complete things the following day. I know there was actually a full hour between the first two, because I remember walking around the Rockefeller Centre area to unwind, running into Horace Silver on the street, and inviting him to visit the upcoming session. (He did come by, and expressed great envy, which may have been exactly what I had in mind. We were giving a major artist the ambitious and costly splurge he deserved, and I couldn't wait to have the whole jazz world know about it!)
Considering the thoroughly written nature of the project, the quantity of alternate takes presented here may be surprising-but it's warranted. I think Wes was extremely aware of the danger of slipping into routine or repetitious playing under these circumstances, and there are clear-cut differences here. There is also one wonderful moment that could only be made public in this special type of collection: an almost complete take of "Prelude to a Kiss" on which Wes plays magnificently; the strings foul things up at the very end, and then burst into a spontaneous, heart-rending collective groan.
The best reasons for presenting multiple takes are in extended codas leading to fade-out endings on both "Pretty Blue" (the only Montgomery original here) and the intriguingly slowed-down arrangement of Miles Davis' "Tune-Up". I'll take a lot of the credit for the initial existence of these remarkable final vamps. I was fully aware that these performances were supposed to be quite brief. In those distant days, it was not impossible for a jazz instrumental to succeed as a pop single, and very much in Riverside's mind was the recent triumph of Mongo Santamaria's "Watermelon Man," which had reached the Number 10 spot on the Billboard singles chart just a couple of months earlier. So the intention was to stay in the three-minute range for potential airplay-but I couldn't force myself to pull the plug on what Wes was playing, particularly on "Tune-Up." Accordingly, these takes got to he almost five minutes long, and despite whatever slight tempo changes and general fussiness caused us to make four complete takes, they are all decidedly worth hearing in full. (After a breakdown before the coda on Take 2, it was resumed and completed, and the edited-together result was in a class with the others.) Even the final "originally-issued" version has never before been heard exactly as it is here: we have gone back to the original unedited tape source to bypass the shortening process and preserve some solo work.
Although full-scale multi-reel recording was still in the future, all this material was initially on half-inch three-track tape. Basically, the orchestra was given a standard two-track stereo spread, and the guitar had a track all to itself. It works extremely well; you may need to be reminded that this is primitive recording, three decades old. It is also worth noting that our finances and the full schedules of these strings players combined to make rehearsals impossible: these scores were being sight-read, played down a few times and then recorded in a handful of takes, at least three per three-hour session. Tribute is certainly due to these remarkable craftsmen.
April 22, 1963Orrin Keepnews:
Largely due to his active working schedule, and also because the strings date had taken some time to prepare, what we had just completed was Wes' first album in ten months. Accordingly, we were planning to take further advantage of his stay in New York, resulting in what must be my shortest waiting period ever between unconnected sessions. The final strings work had taken place on a Friday; we allowed ourselves only the weekend to recover and were back in the same studio on Monday afternoon for what was almost a working group album.
Since the break-up of the Brothers quartet, Wes had gone back to his original setting, the organ trio, and had specifically reunited with Mel Rhyne, the organist with whom he felt most comfortable. There was some speculation about the reasons for this move, but I think it was quite uncomplicated: Montgomery liked the playing freedom this format gave him, and he particularly appreciated the relatively light, non-melodramatic style of Rhyne, who had originally been a pianist. There was also a practical reason: a lot of work was available in those days for small groups with the organ sound-clubs like Count Basie's in Harlem specialised in such units, and having a highly-regarded guitarist as leader made this trio especially attractive. (I'm sure some of the more pretentious critics were unhappy to find this distinguished artist in a context they would otherwise have dismissed as merely a funky "bar band," but that couldn't have bothered Wes at all.)
There was one important difference in the present recording set-up. Montgomery, having had an opportunity to work with Jimmy Cobb and being deeply impressed by the impeccable timekeeping of this often under-appreciated drummer, urgently requested him for the date. The repertoire adds a couple of originals to a varied group of standards; for the most part they are handled with evident relaxation, but there are a couple of odd points to be noted about Wes' compositions. "Fried Pies" offers another opportunity to reverse a previous deletion: as initially issued, it had been deprived of a couple of guitar choruses and a repeat of the outchorus; these cuts have now been restored. The originally released version of "The Trick Bag" indicates that Montgomery had not lost his ability to worry about small details; he had got together with our engineer to thoroughly interweave segments of two takes to correct flaws that no one else could hear.
Wes might have been forgiven for finding this session somewhat anticlimactic, considering the size and scope of what had been going on in the same studio the preceding week, but he actually tore through this program with great speed and enthusiasm, taping the entire eight-tune schedule in barely five and a half hours. As far as the public was concerned, we decided to reverse matters, rushing this album (for June 1963 release) and holding the with-strings set until the end of the year.
SESSIONS 24 and 25
October 10, 1963Orrin Keepnews:
For his next date, Wes was in favour of staying with the working trio format, this time including the young drummer who was travelling with him and Rhyne. Knowing my usual insistence on varied instrumentation and personnel for artists who had several albums on the label, I don't completely understand my accepting the idea. Of course, I was aware that the strings album was still unreleased but would be coming out long before this one. And I had other things on my mind in those days. Riverside was going through some major fiscal crises (in just over two months our problems would be compounded by the sudden heart-attack death of our co-founder and business head, Bill Grauer; by mid-1964 the whole company would have gone under). So at the time I probably felt relieved to be dealing with a leader who had his recording act fully pulled together and wasn't asking for a lot of creative input from his producer.
I may have had something to say about repertoire: Bobby Timmons' celebrated "Moanin" was a favourite of mine, and so was Barry Harris's "Lolita" (which Wes had played on the 1960 Cannonball Poll-Winners album). On the other hand, some of the numbers were, and still seem, decidedly unfamiliar to me. Actually, I've always felt a little unclear in recalling details of this date and its closely-linked follow-up session in November. One reason, in addition to its' unfortunate placement in time, is that my recording sheets for these dates have not survived. This probably is attributable to the ensuing end-of-the-label confusion: much of my paperwork on albums that remained unreleased had disappeared by the time I again had access to it - and I freely admit that those contemporary accounts, in my personal shorthand, are invaluable aids to my memory in reconstructing ancient sessions.
I do, however, distinctly recall that for some reason Wes was even more than usually finicky and unable to please himself. There are sketchy log sheets, maintained (or perhaps recreated at some later date) by someone other than me, and they show lots of takes on quite a number of tunes, some of which are not fully identified. I do know that shortly after the session I ordered acetate discs prepared for Montgomery and me to listen to at our leisure, containing what I felt were probably the most acceptable takes on nine selections. I also know that Wes was not happy with several of these "best" efforts, and that we agreed on an additional session to try some remakes. We did hold such a session, on November 27. Nevertheless, the October versions of several unapproved and remade selections turned up on two LPs issued subsequent to the collapse of Riverside.
Specifically, the company ceased operations midway in 1964. For a while after control passed out of my hands, people brought in by the commercial banking firm that now owned the master tapes sought to keep it going. Among their releases were two rather badly botched Wes Montgomery albums: Portrait of Wes and Guitar on the Go. These included a mistitled selection, some with wrong composer credit, a couple that were actually repeats from previous sessions, and above all the inclusion of what we considered rejects.
I'll deal with the November details in the next section; for now just let me note that I have limited the October material that is being issued here entirely to items I have reason to believe Wes was reasonably satisfied with. There are actually only five selections that pass that test-and two of them were not really being considered for release at that time. One was a solo guitar piece, apparently only incidentally (or even accidentally) taped, not "slated" (that is, never given an announced-on-tape selection or take number by the engineer or producer), and never identified at the time. I've always liked it, partly because I regret having officially recorded only one unaccompanied piece by Wes ("While We're Young" in 1961), and it did get issued in the 1980s as an extra track on a Compact Disc reissue, where it could only he called "unidentified solo guitar." Eventually I was informed that it could be found in a full-scale performance on an early Verve album of his, and that it was titled "Mi Cosa" (roughly, "My Thing"). The other mystery entry - now being issued for the first time - is a version of "Movin' Along," the title number on a 1960 album. Montgomery tried it twice and then moved on, but my recollection is that he was not rejecting the performance, merely deciding against remaking the piece. (The truly confusing aspect of this is that the title "Movin' Along" was wrongly applied to a quite different blues newly written for this session, which Wes' publishing company eventually tided "Blues Riff". I did select two November takes of that selection, but not an October one, for a 1980s reissue album.)
As for the three relatively uncomplicated October choices: this early take of "Moanin"' was one Montgomery seemed to like at the time and which I like as much as any-but when it was included on one of those post Riverside albums it had been shortened by some arbitrary editing; here it is heard at original length. Wes did not request November repeats on "Dreamsville" or "Freddie Freeloader"; the last take of each is included here.
Finally, a historical note about "Freddie Freeloader," which is how this Miles Davis composition was listed on Miles' classic Kind of Blue album. The problem is that it's named after an actual person, a noted hanger-on in the New York jazz scene whose calling card identified him as "Freddie the Freeloader" clearly intending freeloader as a description, not a pseudo-surname. So I've argued for years that Miles would never have intentionally miscalled the man he was more or less honouring. But Miles is no longer around to call me right or wrong, and the music publishing conglomerate which now owns that composition wouldn't at all know what I was talking about, so I'm letting the tide go through as officially listed. But Freddie, I do remember who you properly are.SESSION 25
November 27, 1963
Very probably Montgomery's work schedule took him out of town for a while; it's hard to imagine what else could have delayed our make-up session so long. By this time, we were in the midst of a different level of harsh times. It was less than a week after the devastating assassination of President Kennedy; recording at this time suggests that Wes was anxious to get back to his family in Indianapolis, since this was the day before Thanksgiving. Again, the only session data is on sketchily hand-written sheets; the fact that they do not even differentiate between this session and the one in October supports my feeling that they represent an after-the-fact recap.
The performances here include two standards newly added to the recording repertoire: "For All We Know" and an uptempo "The Way You Look Tonight", played at two very different lengths. There is a brand-new original ("Geno"); a couple of solid remakes of that blues that was to be issued under a wrong title ("Blues Riff'); and a good-sounding final version of "Moanin'".
In addition, there are three previously un-issued repeats of numbers rejected after the previous session; Wes appears to have finally been willing to settle for these takes of "Yesterday's Child", "Dangerous" and "Lolita". These, let me repeat, are not the takes originally issued on Portrait of Wes - those had been reviewed and rejected by Montgomery and Keepnews before the November remake session.
[I do find it necessary to apologise for not having cleaned up all this confusion long ago, but circumstances have constantly worked against it. A little more than two weeks after the November session, Bill Grauer died, and Riverside never really returned to a normal working schedule in the six months before longstanding fiscal problems finally defeated us. Although I became re-involved a decade later as director of jazz activities for Fantasy, which had acquired the Riverside masters, I never was able to find the time or opportunity to completely explore the situation. But when I was asked to serve as producer of this retrospective, it became not only possible but necessary to fully examine and realign this material. I now feel sufficiently sure that I recall accurately what took place back then to insist that, wherever facts or opinions expressed here conflict with something I've written about these dates in the past, you should go with what I'm saying now!]
Basically, I am now making a stubborn effort, 29 years after the fact, to regain control over my last Wes Montgomery sessions. Now I can present the right takes of several of these numbers, and at the same time can decline to reissue the earlier takes that Wes did not accept. I guess the best revenge is to stay in the record business ....
[Orrin Keepnews, the original producer of Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, and many other jazz greats, continues to produce new recordings, but has also had much experience with multi-CD reissues, including the Complete Riverside Recordings of both Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, and the Prestige Recordings of both John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.]
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