Wes Montgomery: Back On Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings (Resonance Records)

Indiana-based guitarist Wes Montgomery proved himself to be the heir apparent of jazz maestro Django Reinhardt. Arriving on the jazz scene in the late 1940s as a touring and live guitarist just as Reinhardt’s time was coming to a close, Montgomery would shine briefly, releasing his first solo material in 1959, before dying suddenly less than a decade later. Back On Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings captures Montgomery well before he released his first album, 1959’s The Wes Montgomery Trio, and these sessions find him experimenting with various arrangements.

The source of the material came from the archives of studio owner Carroll DeCamp, who captured the young guitarist in various combos in the mid-to-late 1950s in his hometown of Indianapolis. From the hours of tape, this collection offers up twenty-two recordings from four of those combos: a quartet, an organ trio, a sextet, and a “Nat ‘King’ Cole”-style trio. Very little is known otherwise, as Baker simply recorded the sessions and did not document who played what or even when they were recorded; much of the information is speculation based upon strenuous and exhaustive research.

While the recording details may remain lost to time, thankfully these tapes aren’t. The relatively high quality of the tapes–some imperfections do exist, but that’s to be expected—combined with the excellent performances make Back On Indiana Avenue an essential document. Much of the material found here would resurface—“Stompin’ At The Savoy,” “Summertime,” and “Jingles” would be revisited by the Montgomery Brothers, his trio with brothers Monk and Buddy.  while “’Round Midnight,” “The End Of A Love Affair,” “West Coast Blues,” and “Whisper Not” would feature on his first two albums. When you compare the officially released versions, it’s obvious the mastermind on guitar had spent a great deal of time getting to know the material inside and out. These early takes only confirm that Montgomery knewthese songs, often years before he released them. Yet these early takes could have easily been released, and would have been equally as impressive as what would finally appear.

It’s a tragedy that Wes Montgomery had such a short career, but it’s to Resonance Records’ credit that they’ve made sure to preserve his legacy with these ongoing archival releases. Back On Indiana Avenue is a welcome release, one that serves Montgomery’s legacy quite well—this would be as good an introduction to his music as any of the albums released in his lifetime—and it is an essential collection of one of the masters of jazz guitar.

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