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From the Archives – A Morning of Jazz – Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly – Smokin’ at the Blue Note!

Smokin' at the Half Note

Last night when I was sifting through my vinyl collection I came across the Wes Montgomery album Willow Weep For Me, Finding that album reminded me of this post I had written a while ago. I read the liner notes for the album which has always been a favorite and discovered that in the summer of 1968 Verve Records discovered previously unreleased tracks and the seven that are included on Willow Weep for Me were recorded at the same booking at The Half Note in Greenwich Village! In the notes Richard Lamb writes:

The Half Note is one of the last remaining landmarks of a legendary era. A real “jazz joint” a room where come to hear jazz and actually listened.

For a buck, you can have a beer at the bar while you listen to Zoot and Al. Gary McFarland is probably sitting on the next stool with Blossom and Mingus and maybe even Mathis scattered at the tables.On any evening several “names” will stop by…..

The point is , when Wes and Wynton sat down and dug in, they knew they were playing for their people. And they played -perhaps heavier than you ever heard them

Which is probably why these two albums are so great. Here is my original post about the album…..

So this morning was as jazzy kind of morning as I was out and about doing some errands I had Smokin’ at the Half Note by Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly playing on the iPod! The album was recorded live in late June 1965 at the Half Note Club in New York City, and September 22, 1965 at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and released by Verve.

The album features Montgomery teamed with the Wynton Kelly Trio. The Wynton Kelly Trio is basically Kelly with bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers had already appeared on other Montgomery albums for Riverside Records such as Bags Meets Wes and Full House.. Both of those great albums are in my collection. Kelly had worked with Montgomery previously but in 1965, he began his association with the Wynton Kelly Trio in the summer of 1965. Together they toured the major jazz clubs in the US and also appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival on the afternoon of Sunday, 4 July. Kelly also appears with Montgomery on the album Willow Weep For Me another favorite album of mine and the track “Four on Six” is included on both albums!

The opening thirteen minute track “No Blues,” is phenomenal as both Montgomery and Kelly soar. The track was a cornerstone of the Miles Davis Quintet with Hank Mobley, circa 1961. The other four tracks on the album are just as good. “Unit 7” and “Four on Six” have become jazz standards based on their recording on this album!

The great Pat Metheny has said, “I learned to play listening to Wes Montgomery’s Smokin’ at The Half Note.” In addition, Metheny stated to the New York Times in 2005 that the solo on “If You Could See Me Now,” from this album is his favorite of all time.

Allmusic jazz critic Jim Smith called the album “essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why Montgomery’s dynamic live shows were considered the pinnacle of his brilliant and incredibly influential guitar playing.” and wrote that “Montgomery never played with more drive and confidence, and he’s supported every step of the way by a genuinely smokin’ Wynton Kelly Trio.”

Finally Stuart Nicholson of Jazz Institute of Chicago can tell you more of the details about the album than I ever could. I know is that I love what I hear and this album will be played whenever I need to hear a little great guitar and piano!

Here’s Wes with “Round Midnight”