by: Hobert Taylor
Wes Montgomery - In the Beginning - (Resonance Records)
Two Disc Set
This is jazz history. A 22 year old Butler University student recorded Wes Montgomery in Indianapolis in 1956 , an Austrian collector found some old 78's with Montgomery as a sideman during the same era and there are some Quincy Jones produced sides recorded before Montgomery was signed that were previously unreleased. A lot of tracks feature his brothers, Buddy on piano, Monk Montgomery, on bass and the gracious tenor playing of Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson.
Montgomery along with Grant Green ,Django Rheinhardt and Charlie Christian are among the the Gods atop the Olympus of Jazz Guitar.
His major label releases, starting in 1959 until his untimely death in 1968 feature a mellow refined sound, equivalent to Miles in his cool era. Passionate and romantic and impeccably phrased, the Wes Montgomery most of us have heard is a mature and authoritative master of his instrument.
These early recordings are no less technically proficient, but there is an energy, a white hot passion actually, in his playing. Some of that is probably do to his choice of material and style of playing. A lot of it is bebop with a capital "B". A lot of it has to with the fact that all of the first disc of this two disc set was recorded live at a place called The Turf Club with the audience's enthusiasm propelling the music further.
In a couple of live tracks from 1958 on the second disc one can hear the more laid back performance style that may be more familiar to Wes's fans. These were recorded in 1958 at the Missile Room. The story goes that after a theater gig in that same year Cannonball Adderley caught a late night set there. He pestered his producer at Riverside Records to see Montgomery and the exec came out to Indianapolis. He heard one set and signed him on the spot.
Also on the second disc there are some demos from 1955 produced by Quincy Jones that are clean but a bit stilted..."safe". Wes still has a lot say on these, especially "Far Wes".
While it is glorious to hear Wes, it is important to mention that all the players were at the top of their games. Pianist Buddy Montgomery never achieved Wes's fame, but among cognoscenti he is respected as a virtuoso.
On the older stuff, the last four cuts on disc 2 you can hear Wes and the other musicians experimenting. The improvisations are out there.. free...young.
Bill Cole/Joseph Daley - Trayvon Martin Suite - (Joda Music)
Multi instrumentalist Cole is the composer, and along with horn player/keyboard player and percussionist, Daley, (a frequent collaborator), he invokes mourning and outrage, recognition of old patterns of injustice, and a call to action to fill the holes in our souls via spiritual droning chants.
Cole uses didgeridoo, shenai, nagaswarm, and other wind instruments from the non-western world in order to connect us to the ur tribe, humanity itself.
Recorded in a chapel on the campus of the University of Virginia this is sacred music, a Missa Solemnis. For people not accustomed to non-western scales and tonal colors this may be jarring, but but this is world music... not the genre, the actuality.
Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble - Sunsum - (Self Released)
Here Cole leads a larger ensemble with sax, flute, and bass guitar included in the mix. The music has a clear connection to the spiritual jazz of late Coltrane, Charles Lloyd, etc, along with elements of Sun Ra and Rahsan Roland Kirk. It also jams out, slightly like the Grateful Dead in jazzier moments.
It's lovingly improvised music by masters of attunement.
Jared Gold - Metropolitan Rhythm - (Posi-Tone)
At first I thought this was going to a jazz organ trio record focusing on mellow, almost smooth jazz. It starts out pleasantly enough, well played and lulling, then zap pow bam it swerves into oncoming traffic.
The improvisations after the conventional intros deconstruct the tunes and teach you something. Organist Gold is joined here by guitarist Dave Stryker who actually plays the lead parts almost as much as Gold.
Their fluidity and almost conversational approach make this a most engaging recording. Highlights: Monk's tune, "Let's Call This", Joe Henderson's "Granted" and Gold's own composition "Homenagem".
Cathi Walkup - The Secret of the Song - (Flying Weasel Enterprises)
Lyricist/singer Walkup fits lyrics to music like a skilled jigsaw puzzler. Only a few folks really link lyrics to jazz with grace and precision because it's so hard. Even when coming off a blues vamp, if it's not 12 bar Chicago blues cliche, the perfect marriage between musical tone and lyrical tone, melody and prosody in jazz, is rare. Walkup comes damn close. The tunes are simple and well played, but the lyrics (most of which are on the lighter side), and their placement, make this a delightful outing.
Antoinette Montague - World Peace in the Key of Jazz - (Self Released)
This is soul jazz with a live feel and coming from a loving place.
The songs chosen here are meant to be inspirational, and most are super familiar, "Imagine", "What the World Needs Now", etc. but her 60's style pop jazz energy and her conviction that these songs matter gives this record energy and purpose. That and some solidly locked in arrangements.