Tue. Dec. 07, 2021

Wes Montgomery – Round Midnight (Riverside)

Classics: Wes Montgomery – Round Midnight (live version) (Riverside)

Well, well, well… I suppose ‘Round Midnight’ should ring a bell to all of you landing here. And this for a reason or another. Either because of the 1986 drama film of the likes directed by Bertrand Tavernier. A film that starred countless luminaries, from Dexter Gordon to François Cluzet. But also Herbie Hancock and/or Wayne Shorter. Either because you would have heard this 1944 Jazz classic at leat once. By its composer, Thelonious Monk. Or by one of the countless artists who gave it a cover version. Be we talkin’ about Dizzie Gillespie‘s, Miles Davis or Wes Montgomery‘s version among countless others…

Wes Montgomery, who sadly disappeared at the early age of 45 on June 15, 1968, stands as one of the major Jazz artists. With many of his pairs quoting him as a major influence. Beginning with George Benson. But also Grant Green and Lee Ritenour. Not to mention the late Ronny Jordan.

We catch him here on a live version of ‘Round Midnight’ back in 1965 in Belgium. Sharing the bill with Harold Mabern on piano, Arthur Harper on bass and Jimmy Lovelace on drums. Weswould record it first in 1959 under The Wes Montgomery Trio guise as a matter of fact. Comin’ up with Melvin Rhyne on organ and Paul Parker on drums. This as the opening cut to the ‘A Dynamic New Sound: Guitar Organ Drums’ album on Riverside…

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A native of Indianapolis, IN, John Leslie ‘Wes’ Montgomery came from a from a family of musicians. His brothers, Monk (double bass and electric bass) and Buddy (vibraphone and piano), sharing his inclination for Jazz. With the threesome eventually performing as the Montgomery Brothers.

Wes Montgomery could learn complex melodies and riffs by ear, despite his admitted absence of skills at reading music. Thus starting to learn the 6 strings guitar aged 20 from listening to and learning the recordings of his idol, Charlie Christian. Lionel Hampton who’d heard of him eventually hiring him for his obvious talent.

Back in his hometown, Cannonball Adderley saw him playing in a club one night and the day after got him to sign a record deal with Riverside. Speakin’ of him, alter ego Bobby Brown said… “Wes introduced a brand new approach to playing the guitar. Techniques that were really unexplored before him. The octave technique… and his chord melody and chord soloing playing still is today unmatched, and definitely a revelation to Jazz guitar playing…”

Wes Montgomery has recorded countless pieces of music. Under his own name as with various formations along with time. And by that influenced countless artists. From George Benson to Grant Green. But also Ronny Jordan, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour to name a few. Comin’ up with an instantly identifiable style/approach on could find in his recordings of gems such as ‘Sunny’, ‘Caravan’, ‘Four On Six’, ‘Round Midnight’, ‘Cariba’ and Bumpin’ On Sunset’ among others.

On the morning of June 15, 1968, while at his home in Indianapolis, IN, Montgomery awoke and reported to his wife that he “didn’t feel very well.” He soon bafter collapsed, dying of a major stroke within minutes, aged 45. He’d just returned from a tour with his quintet at the time, and was as the peak of his fame. Therefore leavin’ countless fans voiceless, which added to his legend…

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