While often admired, guitarists seldom stepped to the forefront during most of the '50s. The real innovators, after all, were the saxophonists and trumpeters, and a guitarist, like a vibraphonist, was optional. With his use of octaves and forceful soloing in the late '50s, Wes Montgomery asserted that the guitarist was fully capable of fronting his own group and, like the tenors, offer cutting edge music. The Best of Wes Montgomery draws from the guitarist's work between 1959 and 1964 for Riverside, a body of work that remains fresh and exhilarating. It isn't so much the material he chooses that captures one's attention, though certainly an original like "Four on Six" draws the listener in. Instead, it's Montgomery's unique use of octaves, ability to solo with chords, and his distinctive method of playing single-note solos. On Victor Young's "Delilah," for instance, he offers several bars of his trademark octave work at the beginning, but he refuses to stick with one approach. After a lengthy solo by vibraphonist Milt Jackson, he re-enters the fray with a chunky series of chords and finally, after another solo from pianist Wynton Kelly, Montgomery cuts loose on a bright, inspired single-note solo that'll make the listener sit up straight. As The Best of Wes Montgomery shows, it's a task he was able to pull off again and again, making this a fine introduction for new fans.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.