Transcript and addendum from the YouTube video, Bobby Broom on Wes Montgomery’s 1959 Jazz Guitar Impact:
“Much has been made of the year 1959 in the history of Jazz music. It’s been called its most prolific year. It’s been called the year Jazz died. In any case, the recordings such as Ornette Colman’s Shape of Jazz to Come Charles Mingus’ Ah Um, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, at least indicated the diversity in the terrain of the music and was also a foreshadowing of more diversity to come.
One figure that is grossly ignored, and significant to this year 1959 in Jazz, is the iconic Wes Montgomery, the guitarist from Indianapolis who emerged in 1959 with his first trio record of his fellow Indianapolis band mates. The name of the record was A Dynamic New Sound for Guitar, Organ and Drums. It ushered in a figure that became one of the most celebrated, if not the most celebrated, on the instrument in Jazz music.
[That recording] began an illustrious career which ended in an untimely fashion in 1968. Just a couple of years prior to Wes’ death, he reached crossover stardom by creating instrumental hits of popular music, and was probably at that time the biggest selling Jazz artist.
Wes introduced a brand new approach to playing the guitar. Techniques that were really unexplored before him. The octave technique (that you hear behind me) and his chord melody and chord soloing playing still is today unmatched, and definitely a revelation to Jazz guitar playing.
So, when mention is made of 1959, I just can’t help but include him. He is, to me, being a guitar player, as important [a figure] as the rest.”
In addition to Wes Montgomery’s groundbreaking guitar techniques, sublimely tasteful musicianship and upper-echelon prowess as a jazz improviser, he also held cards which in the jazz game would normally solidify any holder a position in the rankings of genius. The first of these aces was the position of the master artist/band leader. Like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, both contemporaries of Wes’, he possessed a singular voice on his instrument—one that he could imbue onto any canvas and backdrop, to create his own personal masterpiece. Moreover, he was an astute band leader, who like his aforementioned peers, chose master sidemen to shape the sound of the whole of his groups. Under his direction, the refined chamber group arrangements and stellar soloing of each individual in his Wes Montgomery Trio (which included another highly underrated , organist Melvin Rhyne), displayed the highest level, true depth of character and compelling nature of the most powerful and effective force in jazz music, the ensemble.
The next of Montgomery’s invaluable assets, was that of of his skills as composer. Many of the greatest names in the history of jazz music were not only iconoclastic improvisors, but also left compositions which have gone on to become jazz standards, repeatedly reinterpreted by future generations of jazz musicians. Wes left us at least three indelible, original tunes. Four on Six, Road Song and West Coast Blues have been covered often over the years, but there are other lesser-known gems that are also formidable— Full House, S.O.S. and Twisted Blues.
All things considered, in review of his impact on: a) public response to his general musical output and b) his effect on how his instrument is perceived (among both musicians and the general public), Montgomery belongs among the highest class of the jazz instrumentalist. And certainly, Wes Montgomery is easily the most qualified candidate for a guitarist in Jazz’s Mount Rushmore.