Review: 'In The Beginning,' Wes Montgomery
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
He was one of the most influential guitarists of all time.
(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONTGOMERY SONG, "BILLIE'S BOUNCE")
CORNISH: Wes Montgomery captivated the jazz world in the late 1950s. His debut record was released in 1958. At that point, the Indianapolis native was already 35 years old. But there has been some mystery around Montgomery. Music historians have long wondered about the period before his breakthrough. Music reviewer Tom Moon says a new anthology called "In The Beginning" offers some clues.
TOM MOON, BYLINE: Wes Montgomery didn't get serious about the guitar until he was 19 years old. He was born into a musical family and learned the intricacies of jazz in jam sessions and on small nightclub gigs with his brothers.
(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONTGOMERY SONG, "WES' TUNE")
MOON: Most of the recordings on this anthology were captured by a fan on a portable tape recorder in Indianapolis clubs. At times, the sound is rough, but the music has all the clarity and drive of Montgomery's classics and shows that he was already in command of his trademark, the crisp octaves he played like block chords and articulated with great precision.
(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONTGOMERY SONG, "ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE")
MOON: Montgomery was unable to devote himself fully to music as a young man. He worked a factory job to support his family. He played nights and weekends and did have a few big opportunities. In 1955, he was invited by a young producer named Quincy Jones to record some demos for Epic Records in New York. Most of these have never been released until now.
(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONTGOMERY SONG, "LIELA")
MOON: The collection fills a gap in the West Montgomery story. It shows that, very early on, the guitarist already had the core components of his identity - that sound, that unwavering, fiery sense of swing. More importantly, it shows he worked to refine his innate talent week after week in clubs, the jazz equivalent of grad school. Before anyone knew his name, Wes Montgomery was already playing like a legend.
(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONTGOMERY SONG, "AFTER YOU'VE GONE")
CORNISH: The new anthology from Wes Montgomery is called "In The Beginning." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.
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