I never practice guitar... from time to time, I just open my guitar case and throw in a piece of raw meat."
There is something about the way Wes Montgomery plays that always intrigued me. I have to admit this kind of jazz is not my chosen type of music, and I tend to go for the more 'ballsier' players but Montgomery has a special kind of touch, a special kind of sound, that even if It is not aligned with my normal taste always stops me in my tracks and makes me listen.
What was that? What did he do?
It's impossible for me to feel like there's only one way to do a thing. There's nothing wrong with having one way of doing it, but I think it's a bad habit. I believe in range.
Like, there's a lot of tunes that I play all the time-sometimes I hear 'em in a different register. And if you don't have complete freedom, or you won't let yourself get away from that one straight line, oh, my goodness, that's too horrible to even think about.”
Listening to Wes play I am reminded of Django Reinhardt, if Django took a chill pill that is. They both have the same rushing forward of melted semi chords and long tumbling down the stairs quality, but Wes does them in slow motion. In the hippest coolest possible way, when the groovy walk replaces the drunken stagger, where black America replaces the gypsy caravan.
They both had it right, different sides of the ocean, different cultures, but the same. At least in my mind. And putting somebody, anybody in the same rubric as Django Reinhardt is always a great compliment.
I don't know that many chords. I'd be loaded if I knew that many. But that's not my aim. My aim is to move from one vein to the other without any trouble. The biggest thing to me is keeping a feeling, regardless what you play.
So many cats lose their feeling at various times, not through the whole tune, but at various times, and it causes them to have to build up and drop down, and you can feel it.”
Wes Montgomery was not a guitar player, he was a walking plucking dictionary of jazz, he doesn’t belong to any school, he IS a school, and even these days whenever I am smart enough to put some Montgomery I learn something new, I discover something new.
The annoying thing is that it is always something so simple, something that gets an 'oh, but of course' out of you and sends you humbled on your way. Humbled but richer. Wiser. More educated in the vocabulary of jazz, of music. and Wes indeed took the jazz guitar to a higher level professionally. Not by chance or by mistake but with the intent of making it more acceptable as a smart art form and not as background music or for its entertainment value.
If a jazz player is really playing, the classical player will have to respect him.”
But the thing that impresses me most with his music is still the groove. It is not real jazz, not the cool expected jazz you would think such a guitar player, with that kind of guitar, from that period in time would produce, no it is much more modern, before it's time, anticipating and giving us a wonderful preview of the great things that are coming to music after him.
Regardless of what you play, the biggest thing is keeping the feel going."
Ah, it's such fun writing these articles, if only for the reason I can now sit and sway in my chair here for half an hour listening to Wes, and my wife can't say anything. I am working. Thank YOU for that!