Wynton Kelly Trio, Wes Montgomery, Smokin’ In Seattle (Resonance)
The Resonance Records label’s stream of previously unreleased music includes a collaboration of guitarist Wes Montgomery (1925-1968) and pianist Wynton Kelly (1931-1971) that is a major addition to the discographies of both musicians. The recording captures them in the spring of 1966 at The Penthouse, a Seattle jazz club that managed to flourish in an era when the Beatles invasion and the steady inroads of rock and roll were pushing jazz steadily further down the list of the public’s listening choices. The resourceful management and booking practices of Penthouse owner Charlie Puzzo kept his club alive when others throughout The United States were going under.
Kelly’s four-year stretch with Miles Davis had brought him widespread recognition. Montgomery’s Smokin’ at the Half Note and other recordings with Kelly had helped make him one of the most talked-about guitarists alive. By the time of this album, Ron McClure had replaced Paul Chambers on bass. As the Seattle gig unfolded, it was apparent that McClure, Kelly and drummer Jimmy Cobb were coalescing into one of the most cohesive and irresistibly swinging of all rhythm sections of the era.
The Seattle CD opens with an up-tempo “There Is No Greater Love,” setting a high bar that the quartet soars across again and again during nearly an hour of 50-year-old music whose freshness makes it seem new. Montgomery’s trademark octaves are important to the success of “What ‘s New.” His mastery of the blues is evident in several pieces including trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s “Sir John.” A brief blues in F fades out after less than three minutes and yet provides some of Montgomery’s jolliest playing of the gig, nearly as happy as in his waltz-time “West Coast Blues.” Kelly and the trio are featured in Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” a version whose bluesy aspect and tremolo passages make it at least the equal of the pianist’s other recordings of that classic. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “O Amor em Paz”* contributes a refreshing Brazilian flavor and a dancing sequence of Montgomery octaves before a blazing but far too short “Oleo” by the quartet closes the album.
*(In the information on the CD packaging, Resonance Records misidentified this title as that of another Jobim song. I inadvertently perpetuated the error. “O Amor em Paz” is the correct name of the piece. Thanks to several readers for catching the error.)—DR