Wes Montgomery

Boss Guitar

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Before he moved away from straight-ahead jazz and starting playing what is now known as smooth jazz, Wes Montgomery was one of bop's finest guitarists. Montgomery's bop period ended much too soon, but thankfully, he recorded his share of rewarding bop albums when he was still bop-oriented -- and one of them is Boss Guitar, which Orrin Keepnews produced in 1963. It's a trio recording, employing Mel Rhyne on organ and Jimmy Cobb on performances that have held up well over time; Montgomery shows how expressive a ballad player he could be on the standards "For Heaven's Sake" and "Days of Wine and Roses," but the fast tempo exuberance of "The Trick Bag" (a Montgomery original) serves him equally well. Montgomery swings the blues with pleasing results on "Fried Pies" (another Montgomery original), while Consuelo Velázquez's "Besame Mucho" (which is usually played at a slow ballad tempo) is successfully transformed into medium-tempo Latin jazz. Boss Guitar is among the bop-oriented Montgomery albums that should continue to be savored after all these years. [In addition to the eight master takes that were heard on the original '60s LP, some reissues contain alternate takes of "Besame Mucho," "The Trick Bag," and "Fried Pies" -- all of which will interest collectors.]

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