Happy HUMP day, Everyone! Hope you’re enjoying the smooth jazz of Mr. Wes Montgomery.
Many fellow jazz guitarists consider Montgomery the greatest influence among modern jazz guitarists. Pat Metheny has praised him greatly, saying “I learned to play listening to Wes Montgomery’s Smokin’ at the Half Note.” In addition, Metheny stated to The New York Times in 2005 that the solo on “If You Could See Me Now,” from this album is his favorite of all time. Joe Pass said, “To me, there have been only three real innovators on the guitar—Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, and Django Reinhardt,” as cited in James Sallis‘s The Guitar Players and in his Hot Licks instructional video. Kenny Burrell states, “It was an honor that he called me as his second guitarist for a session.” In addition, George Benson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, David Becker, Joe Diorio, Steve Lukather, Larry Coryell, and Pat Martino have pointed to him numerous times as a great influence. Lee Ritenour, who recorded the 1993 album Wes Bound named after him, cites him as his most notable influence; he also named his son Wesley
Following the early work of swing/pre-bop guitarist Charlie Christian and gypsy-jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, Wes joined Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Jimmy Raney, and Barney Kessell to put guitar on the map as a bebop / post-bop instrument. While these men generally curtailed their own output in the 1960s, Montgomery recorded prolifically during this period, lending guitar to the same tunes contemporaries like John Coltrane and Miles Davis were recording. While many jazz players are regarded as virtuosos, Montgomery had a very wide influence on other virtuosos who followed him, and in the respect he earned from his contemporaries. To many, Montgomery’s playing defines jazz guitar and the sound that students try to emulate.
Dave Miele and Dan Bielowsky claim, “Wes Montgomery was certainly one of the most influential and most musical guitarists to ever pick up the instrument… He took the use of octaves and chord melodies to a greater level than any other guitarist, before or since… Montgomery is undoubtedly one of the most important voices in Jazz guitar that has ever lived-or most likely ever will live. A discussion of Jazz guitar is simply not thorough if it does not touch upon Wes Montgomery.”
“Listening to [Wes Montgomery’s] solos is like teetering at the edge of a brink,” composer-conductor Gunther Schuller asserted, as quoted by Jazz & Pop critic Will Smith. “His playing at its peak becomes unbearably exciting, to the point where one feels unable to muster sufficient physical endurance to outlast it.” Wes received many awards and accolades: Nominated for two Grammy Awards for Bumpin’, 1965; received Grammy Award for Goin’ Out of My Head as Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by Large Group or Soloist with Large Group, 1966; nominated for Grammy Awards for “Eleanor Rigby” and “Down Here on the Ground”, 1968; nominated for Grammy Award for Willow, Weep for Me, 1969. Wes’ second album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, earned him Down Beat magazine’s “New Star” award in 1960. In addition, he won the Down Beat Critic’s Poll award for best Jazz guitarist in 1960, ’61, ’62,’63, ’66, and 1967.
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