The Upshot: Jazz guitar legend at his most relaxed and in control on a recently-discovered 1959 set.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Depending on who you ask, Wes Montgomery was either a genius or one of music’s greatest cases of wasted potential. The guitarist’s turn toward a string-laden, more pop-oriented sound in the mid-60s causes consternation amongst hardcore jazzbos to this day. Whether or not they have a point is a discussion for another time – we’re here to consider One Night in Indy. A recently-discovered, 1959 live recording in Montgomery’s hometown of Indianapolis that’s gone unreleased until now, the album features Montgomery in a postbop setting backed by pianist Eddie Higgins’ trio. (Walter Perkins is on drums; despite the label’s best efforts, the bassist is unknown.)
The Higgins trio gently swinging behind him, Montgomery thumb-picks his way through a series of standards, letting his spry licks and round tone do the work. “Give Me the Simple Life” and “Li’l Darling” ride rhythms that almost sound like hepcat clichés, but Montgomery and Higgins (and the mysterious bass player) trade licks like old pals showing off their best stuff. A sensual and wistful take on Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear” translates pillow talk into music, while brisk romps through “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” blast through the haze for some hot licks. Band and leader meld here, as if the music came from four instruments but all of one mind. Montgomery was the king of postbop jazz guitar, and he’s at his most relaxed and in control on One Night in Indy.
DOWNLOAD: “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Give Me the Simple Life”