Jazz guitar compleatists will dig this one, which is mandatory listening for anyone who thought they’d heard everything by the marvelous Wes Montgomery during his comet-like impact on jazz before his heart gave out in 1968. These long-lost club and studio sessions with local Indianapolis musicians were recorded in 1957 and 1958, perhaps as a demo tape, before his debut on Riverside Records in 1959 with The Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound. There is much detail in the accompanying essays about how the tapes reached Resonance Records, and how they were restored beautifully.
Montgomery performs in several settings: with brothers Buddy on piano and Monk on bass; with Melvin Rhyne on piano or Hammond B3 and Paul Parker on drums; and with pianist Earl Van Riper, bassist Mingo Jones and drummer Sonny Johnson. These earliest-known Montgomery recordings show him to be a ferocious, inventive and swinging player from the start. The eight standards explored here in various contexts are followed by an improvised “After Hours Blues” that liner note writer Bill Milkowski says “may be the funkiest Wes Montgomery on record.” I concur. This session reveals Wes Montgomery at his earliest sessions as a leader, and captures the flavor and importance of his hometown’s jazz clubs that were his musical incubator. This will be released on March 6, which would have been Montgomery’s 88th birthday.
Ahmad Jamal, Blue Moon (JazzVillage)
Consistent excellence. That’s the simplistic accolade for pianist Ahmad Jamal’s music-making. He sustains that level of creativity and inventiveness in every format. At age 81, he’s got a refreshed band and a new recording. Blue Moon explores classic music from American film and Broadway from the 1940s through the 1960s, adding three originals and a fresh take on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody’n You.” His band here includes bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena. This was Jamal’s first recording of the gorgeous title track, which originated in the 1934 film “Hollywood Party” and was popularized by Billie Holiday, Elvis and Mel Torme. Jamal’s version ought to stand without peer for many fans in the way that he has owned “Poinciana” for decades. This is classic Jamal. Dig it.