Picks and Pans Review: The Alternative Wes Montgomery

UPDATED 03/21/1983 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/21/1983 at 01:00 AM EST

We owe these 14 previously unreleased takes by the great jazz guitar innovator to a quirk of his nature. Montgomery was an unfathomable perfectionist. Time and again he would finish a take and, while expressions of awe and delight rippled through the control room, the tall, big-boned guitarist would calmly announce he wasn't satisfied and wanted to try again. Many unreleased takes, when they're finally dredged up from the vaults, only diminish their creators' reputations. But the material here, recorded for Riverside during Montgomery's peak years, 1959 to 1963, can only add to his mystique. He didn't discard these takes solely because he detected some flaw. He was, as his Riverside producer, Orrin Keepnews, noted, "a continuous, instinctive improviser" who often recast his solos entirely, seeking a more satisfying idea. In his later years on Verve, Montgomery stopped making pure jazz and started making money. But these earlier sessions, which matched him with such stimulating peers as Johnny Griffin, Milt Jackson, Paul Chambers, Kenny Burrell and Philly Joe Jones, brim with invention, emotion and nonchalant frolics along the precipices of tempo and chord change. The set epitomizes what was once meant by the word "cool."

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