Wes Montgomery

Plays for Lovers

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A casual peruser of conventional jazz wisdom might guess that a Wes Montgomery Plays for Lovers album would surely draw from Universal's A&M and/or Verve holdings. But no, this compilation is part of Concord's look-alike series of that name. Thus, these are Riverside sides from the first few years of Montgomery's recording career, and besides providing a soundtrack for a romantic evening, they prove that Wes Montgomery's taste for a tender ballad -- with the tunes often stated in his patented octaves -- was always there practically from the beginning. Concord didn't have to strain as it gathered material to support this concept, drawing from nine of Montgomery's Riverside albums and finding ballads in all. "Prelude to a Kiss" and "All the Way" come from that premonition of future commercial enterprises, Fusion!, where the romantic mood is a given and Jimmy Jones' charts make a small orchestra sound lusher than its numbers would indicate. Some of the great guitarist's collaborations with other notables also populate this collection. "Stairway to the Stars" features the voluble Milt Jackson on vibes, with Montgomery playing gentle octaves in the center. "If I Should Lose You" has Montgomery Brothers Monk (bass) and Buddy (piano) backing Wes, who is always mellow and songful, and he and his brothers fit right into the George Shearing sound in the sole midtempo track on the CD, "Darn That Dream." Full House, the sole (and celebrated) live album of Montgomery's Riverside period, is represented by "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," where he does little more than tenderly state the tune. The album closes with Montgomery's only recorded a cappella solo track, "While We're Young," whose ultra-mellow mood underplays even the most understated ballads in the rest of the package. By no means should this be your only Wes Montgomery Riverside album, nor is it the best-paced Montgomery anthology out there. But those who cotton to his quiet ballad side ought to find a lot of concentrated pleasure.

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