Album: The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
Artist: Wes Montgomery
Genre: Hard Bop
Wes Mongomery was one of the most innovative electric guitarists to ever live. After forming a trio with his brothers in the mid-1950s and playing with the likes of Lionel Hampton and Freddie Hubbard, Montgomery was eventually “discovered” by Cannonball Adderley and immediately signed to Riverside Records. He released his sophomore solo LP, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, in 1960 and soon became a household name.
Even though Montgomery’s technical proficiency (particularly his astounding usage of octaves) must be heard to be believed, The Incredible Jazz Guitar endures thanks to the contributions of his backing band (which includes Tommy Flanagan and brothers Percy and Albert Heath). His impeccable playing fits right in with their searing hard bop.
The album alternates between up-tempo scorchers (“Airegin”) and bluesy balladry (“Polka Dots and Moonbeams”). In fact, Montgomery’s greatest attribute is his ability to fit naturally within whatever sound and structure the moment requires. He creates a whole new jazz vocabulary with every note, paving the way for generations of aspiring guitarists.
As one of the most influential guitar albums of all time, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery continues to be an integral piece of the repertoire. Even though the subject matter is somewhat standard hard bop, the music opened up a new world of possibilities never before heard. For that reason, it remains Montgomery’s greatest album.