Shortly after Wes Montgomery's shockingly early death, Verve rummaged around in the vaults and came up with some additional tapes from the live Smokin' at the Half Note sessions with the Kind of Blue rhythm section, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. And then after-the-fact producer Esmond Edwards did a controversial thing -- he commissioned Claus Ogerman, the arranger on Tequila, to overdub wind and brass arrangements on four tracks: the title tune, "Portrait of Jennie," "Oh! You Crazy Moon," and "Misty." The critics promptly pounced on Verve, NARAS responded by giving the album a Grammy, and the whole issue became moot when subsequent reissues of the four tracks erased the new backing charts. Yet on the whole, Ogerman did a good job; his arrangements are subtle and, in the case of the title track, swinging, with the flutes adding effective responses within Montgomery's statements of the theme. "Impressions," oddly enough, was left alone -- perhaps due to its lightning tempo -- and this classic solo has since been reissued many times as the prime example of Montgomery in his Verve period. "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and an alternate take of "Four on Six" (with a bad edit cutting off Kelly's solo in mid-flight) are also free of orchestrations. In any case, what you will hear, bathed in winds or not, is prime, mature Wes Montgomery stretching out in full, with unbelievable confidence in his ear and technique at all times, experimenting now and then with mild electronic effects devices. The sound is oddly dim and shallow on the LP, which is surprising since the Smokln' album sounded so good.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell