Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - C. Michael Bailey
In welcome fits of serendipity, the manuscripts of previously unknown European classical compositions are found in attics, old churches or forgotten libraries and brought to light with no little fanfare. In the United States, there is an equivalent situation with hitherto previously unissued jazz recordings being revealed in the most unlikely places. In a recent example, producer Michael Cuscuna got wind of some unissued music by guitarist Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) being offered on eBay. Due to the short length of the guitarist's professional career, there are many fewer Montgomery recordings out there as compared to his peers of the 1950s and '60s. The eBay listing came to an end, and the tape's new owner, guitarist Jim Greeninger, made a call to Cuscuna that, three years later, resulted in the release of Echoes of Indiana Avenue.
These recordings were made in three different formats, ostensibly as demos for record companies. Montgomery signed with the Pacific Jazz label in 1958 (resulting in Fingerpickin'), so it is thought that these recordings were made between 1957 and '58. Montgomery's style represents a natural evolution from Charlie Christian's groundbreaking recordings of the late 1930s. If Joe Pass approximates Oscar Peterson on guitar, then Montgomery is Count Basie. Montgomery's technicality was revealed in his use of octaves more than his speed or dexterity. His note choice was expert, and in light of his autodidactic status, revelatory. ... read more...
Personnel: Wes Montgomery (guitar); Melvin Rhyne (piano, organ); Earl Van Riper, Buddy Montgomery (piano); Sonny Johnson, Paul Parker (drums).
Liner Note Authors: Dan Morgenstern; David Baker ; Michael Cuscuna; Monk Montgomery; Pat Martino; Bill Milkowski; Buddy Montgomery.
Recording information: Hub Bub, Indianapolis (1957-1958); Indianapolis (1957-1958).
Photographers: Duncan P. Scheidt; Adrian Ingram.
Let's put the hook in right from the jump: Echoes of Indiana Avenue is perhaps the most significant release of previously unissued material by a major jazz artist since the The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall appeared in 2005. That's not hyperbole. These tapes, which consist of two live recordings and one studio demo, were cut, presumably, between 1957 and 1958, with various groupings of musicians, including his brothers Monk and Buddy, as well as pianist Earl Van Riper and bassist Mingo Jones. All of the tunes here are now regarded as standards, but some were current then, freshly added in that era, such as Shorty Rogers' "Diablo's Dance," Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," and perhaps most importantly, Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" and "Straight No Chaser." The former, recorded in an organ trio format with Melvin Rhyne on the B-3 and Paul Parker on drums, reveals, even at this early date, how well-developed Montgomery's improvisational language was. His reverent opening is ever so gradually replaced by a shimmering movement toward something approaching early soul-jazz, yet his ability to use the instrument's tonal subtleties and harmonic possibilities add a very different dimension to its harmonic architecture. (And while he recorded it several times during his all-too-brief life, this version is the earliest one we now have of him.) The hard swinging "Take the 'A' Train" showcases the already distinctive and innovative voicings on the bass strings Montgomery developed. These examples aside, there isn't a weak or middling moment throughout the proceedings. At this early date as a leader, Montgomery was in command, pushing hard at the Charlie Christian-isms that dominated his playing with Lionel Hampton. Sound quality can be a tiny bit rough in places, but it hardly matters when the material is this fine. ~ Thom Jurek
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