Jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery first collaborated with pianist Wynton Kelly in 1962 on the outstanding Riverside album Full House, recorded live in San Francisco. And it wasn’t just Kelly in the mix, but the whole Miles Davis rhythm section from the late 1950s, with Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums (plus Johnny Griffin on sax). Montgomery and this stellar rhythm section reconvened in 1965 for Smokin’ at the Half Note, another classic, recorded partly live in New York by Rudy Van Gelder, and partly at Van Gelder’s studios in New Jersey. It was released on the Verve label and Pat Metheny has called it the “greatest jazz guitar album ever made.”
Metheny isn’t alone in that opinion and these two LPs represent some of Montgomery’s most sought after recordings. So word of a newly discovered Wynton Kelly/Wes Montgomery session was very welcome indeed. The label behind the find is once again Resonance Records who have, over the last few years, shown a remarkable talent for seeking out and releasing lost gems of jazz. The sessions that form the basis of this album were recorded at the Penthouse in Seattle, Washington on April 14th and 21st 1966. By that time Wynton Kelly’s trio had undergone one change in its personnel, Chambers had left to be replaced by Ron McClure on bass. The half-century old tapes have survived the years admirably unscathed and the sound quality here is live, dynamic and exciting.
It might be expected that Wes Montgomery would be the headliner on this record — the title after all evokes his milestone Half Note album. But the procedure on those gigs back in 1966 was to have the Kelly trio open each evening, playing several numbers before Montgomery joined them. And Resonance have decided to reflect this by including four tracks (out of ten) of Wynton Kelly’s men without Wes. A risky move since the guitarist is the star here. Luckily, the Kelly trio material is excellent, vibrant and rollicking, and you wouldn’t want to miss it.
Indeed, Wynton Kelly’s piano playing is so rich and musical the listener begins to forget that there are other instrumental possibilities ; they certainly don’t seem necessary. "There is No Greater Love" is notable for the brisk, scampering freshness of his quicksilver piano and Jimmy Cobb’s solid chunking drums, with a spattering of cymbals. The up-tempo midsection of "Not a Tear" features swift, swooping runs which are reminiscent of Horace Silver’s "Señor Blues". And "If You Could See Me Now" is a beautiful piece, with the probing persistence of Kelly’s piano decisively chipping away at the tune to reveal bright slices of melody.
But then Wes Montgomery appears on "West Coast Blues" and we’re in a whole new sound world, funkier and fatter and richer. Jimmy Cobb’s drumming responds and rises to the occasion by becoming more punchy and Kelly impresses by seamlessly seguing into a comping role, closely configuring himself to the guitarist. Montgomery carves out big chunks of music with his characteristic chubby chordal playing. Jobim’s "O Morro Não Tem Vez" is a beautiful sunny bossa nova and Jingles has a thumping impact with piano, guitar and Ron McClure’s bass hitting in unison before Montgomery separates from the pack and unspools a long thread of a solo. In contrast, "What’s New ?" is slow and warm and intimate, the guitar as smoothly insinuating as a friendly cat, with Cobb making good use of the brushes and Kelly brightly constructing fills.
Source : http://www.resonancerecords.org/release.php?cat=HCD-2029
Smokin' in Seattle
Live at the Penthouse
1 There is No Greater Love (Jones, Symes) 7:56
2 Not a Tear (Stevenson) 6:29
3 Jingles* (Montgomery) 4:31
4 What’s New ?* (Burke, Haggart) 4:51
5 Blues in F* (Montgomery) 2:44
6 Sir John (Mitchell) 8:10
7 If You Could See Me Now (Dameron, Sigman) 5:54
8 West Coast Blues* (Montgomery) 3:56
9 O Morro Não Tem Vez* (Jobim, De Moraes) 6:15
10 Oleo* (Rollins) 2:08
Wes Montgomery - g*
Wynton Kelly - p
Ron McClure - b
Jimmy Cobb - dr
Recorded in performance at the Penthouse, Seattle, Washington ; April 14 & 21, 1966