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Jazz Guitar Great Wes Montgomery Goes “Pop”!


Wes Montgomery Plays “Windy”


Wes Montgomery was a great jazz guitarist, but his most successful album A Day in the Life, and single  “Windy”  were more “Pop” than jazz. However, back in 1967 and ’68, when I was listening mostly to rock and pop music, it was through Montgomery’s albums on A&M records, that I discovered the incredible jazz guitar of  Wes Montgomery.

Wes recorded three  albums for A&M, A Day in the Life, Down Here on the Ground, and  Road Song.  All of the albums contained Montgomery covering pop songs of the day,  like “Windy” and “A Day in the  Life” and even classics like “Greensleeves” and while the albums were not be full of classic jazz tracks, they are full of Wes’ great jazz  guitar!

Wes’ biggest hit “Windy”  appeared on A Day in the Life which was released in1967. From Wikipedia:

A Day in the Life is the eighteenth album by guitarist Wes Montgomery, released in 1967. It reached number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart and number 2 on the R&B chart. It also reached number 13 on the Billboard 200. The single “Windy” became his biggest ot 100 hit when it peaked at number forty-four. Read More

The album was recorded in Van Gelder Studios with Rudy Van Gelder  serving as engineer and Creed Taylor  the producer. The core personnel playing on the album was….

Herbie Hancock – piano
Ron Carter – bass
Grady Tate – drums
Ray Barretto – percussion

Not a bad little group, eh. Now a lot more people played on the album because there was a lot of orchestration on the album, hence the lack of great jazz! But it was listening to those albums that lead me to Wes’ releases on both Riverside and Verve records. It was in those recordings that I discovered the jazz guitar of the real Wes Montgomery! In addition, it was through Wes’ music that I discovered Jimmy Smith, Wynton Kelly and many other jazz greats!

Through the years, the guitar of Wes Montgomery has remained a favorite of mine and I am continually adding Wes’ music to my music library !! I’ve even added an album from his brother Buddy!!

Here’s is Wes performing  “Windy” on the Hollywood Palace, notice who the guest-host is Herb Alpert, the head of A&M Records!! Could this have been the first time I saw Wes. I regularly watched The Hollywood Palace, so it may have been the first time, I saw Wes’ use his thumb to play rather than a pick giving his jazz guitar a distinctive sound!  Anyone remember seeing this back then??