Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pete Townshend on Wes Montgomery

The Montgomery Brothers
"In 1962, in my second year of Art College in London, I remember giving my saxophonist father some earphones to listen to the first stereo record I'd ever purchased. It was by Wes Montgomery. It was a strange feeling, sitting in the bedroom I'd shared with my little brother for six years, watching my father being transported by a decent (though lashed-together) Hi-Fi sound for the first time. It made me feel as though my father was junior to me rather than senior; I felt I was giving him something that, as we were both musicians, he should have given to me.

He listened to one whole side of the record, and took off the earphones. "What do you think?" I asked. "It's
good isn't it?" He nodded. "This guitar player is wonderful," he said first. "I knew of him, of course, but his playing here is superb." He handed me back the earphones. "It's intriguing," he added. "You can hear how the players' timing drifts apart, you are almost in the band. It's like being in the middle of the band, in fact." My father had spent his life in the middle of many bands big and small, so he knew what he was talking about.

And so when I was just 17 years old, my father and I shared our first Wes recording, [hearing] the Montgomery family at work. What comes across is a sense of fun and discovery. There is mischief and experiment. This was a period when jazz was breaking ground on all fronts, and I hadn't realized how sophisticated a guitarist Wes was even in these early days. His recorded sound was often very smooth and rounded, sometimes it was hard to get a grip of his articulation (it's well known Wes didn't use a plectrum) and so it's a surprise here to hear him playing so damn fast! With his thumb! He stopped playing so flashily in the next decade, and concentrated more on atmosphere and expression his playing became loving, gentle and poetic. He became a romantic. But on these sessions he's a young blade, rocking out, speeding sometimes, challenged by his brother Buddy on piano, who could elaborate either like falling drops of water on a tin roof or like a machine gun. Another brother, Monk, is on bass on a lot of the tracks, and it's fun to imagine them rehearsing for hours together, with time to kill, then launching themselves into a club and tearing everything apart all over again. Together you can hear them testing each other, but they never lose the music."

--  Pete Townshend (Liner notes to Wes Montgomery In the Beginning)

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