Wes Montgomery

A Portrait of Wes Montgomery

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Let's say it up front; this reissue was motivated primarily by greed. Immediately in the wake of Wes Montgomery's sudden death in 1968, noting the loot that A&M and Verve were raking in, Liberty tried to emulate the successful Wes-plus-orchestra formula by "sweetening" some of the guitarist's early Pacific Jazz sessions with strings and horns. Oddly enough, the concept almost works, for the estimable Gerald Wilson is in charge of the charts, and he writes some swinging, well-played things for big band that are laid down precisely in sync with the small combo tapes to surprisingly good effect in spots. The string charts are less successful; the writing is OK, but they are not well-executed. In any case, these attempts don't sound much like the A&Ms and Verves anyway, and they often smudge what Wes, his brothers and colleagues were trying to do. Worse, many of the tracks are cut, no doubt to attract radio play. Still, the LP was enterprising enough to offer a swinging taste of the obscure Montgomery collaboration with Jon Hendricks, "A Good Git-Together," the only time as of this writing that anything from that album has resurfaced (albeit heavily trimmed and orchestrated). Pick this up secondhand only if it's cheap.