There are certain artists that, no matter what “undiscovered” tape of a studio or concert recording is found, deserves to be put into the public realm and evaluated. Simply put, you can never have enough music from these artists. Wes Montgomery, like Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, immediately come to mind. Resonance Records has once again uncovered an important recording that only few mortal souls had been exposed to before.
Is this the definitive concert recording of Wes Montgomery? That is a question that will be debated for awhile, as 1962’s Full House and Smokin’ at the Half Note from the same year as this show (1965) are neck and neck contenders. Nevertheless, this one is a treasure to find, behold and covet, as it finds the legendary guitarist at the apotheosis of his powers, with a team of all stars that inspire him, and in an environment (Paris) that was his only time in the country, giving the whole affair a special tinge.
Performing at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees with Harold Mabern/p, Arthur Harper/b, Jimmy Lovelace/dr and guest Johnny Griffin/ts sitting in for a few tunes, Montgomery swings with relentless delight on pieces such as “Four On Six” and “Impressions” while getting ravenous on “Jingles.” The rhythm team delivers a hip Latin groove to “Here’s That Rainy Day” and all throughout the evening Mabern is a post-bopping perfect counterpart to the guitarist.
Griffin, who was also featured on the Full House, is in muscular form on “Full House,” agonizes brilliantly with Montgomery on “’Round Midnight” and closes out his appearance by unplugging the dike on a wild solo during “Blue ‘N Boogie/West Coast Blues” before the quartet closes with a searing “Twisted Blues.” While most of these pieces have been featured on concert albums, the inclusion of the more obscure “Jingles” and “To Wane,” (a rapid fire piece that has Montgomery’s guitar crying like a kitten) mixed together with the muscular rhythm team make this a formidable evening. The sound quality, mastered by Bernie Brundman, is unbelievably clear, making this like all good things, a gift from Above.
The 32 page booklet include insightful essays, a historical perspective and an essential interview with Mabern who is still with us on this planet. Don’t let this get by!!!