Personnel: Wes Montgomery (guitar); Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Jimmy Cobb (drums).
Recorded live at the Half Note, New York, New York and Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in June and September 1965.
This album is the live equivalent of the INCREDIBLE GUITAR album--Wes Montgomery cooking with a seasoned and communicative piano trio on a set of jazz compositions, standards, and original material. INCREDIBLE GUITAR has Tommy Flanagan, Percy Heath, and Albert Heath; SMOKIN' has the Wynton Kelly trio, with Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Not only had the same trio served as one of Miles Davis' great rhythm sections, but Kelly was considered by many to be the most gifted accompanist of his time.
Miles Davis's "No Blues" is in fact an utterly relentless blues, with Montgomery nailing each single-note, octave, or block-chord phrase with passionate conviction. Bassist Sam Jones's "Unit 7" is another uptempo blues. "Four on Six," which debuted on INCREDIBLE GUITAR, gets an edited version of the head and a slightly faster treatment overall. Kelly takes the lead on the first ballad, "If You Could See Me Now," Montgomery on the second, framing the melody to "What's New" in octaves over Cobb's late-night brushes. The excellent sound quality and almost complete lack of audience noise throughout makes SMOKIN' feel like eavesdropping of the best kind.