Jazz Guitarists – Wes Montgomery

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Wes Montgomery seems to a favorite guitarist of every lover of jazz guitar. He is one of the most influential jazz guitarists of the post pop era. Not only have many guitarists who came after Wes emulated his style, they continue to issue tributes to Wes. Artists influenced by Wes Montgomery include Emily RemlerLee Ritenour, Pat Martino, and Kenny Burrell.

Wes Montgomery played with Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Smith and his brothers, The Montgomery Brothers among others. I particularly like him in the organ trio setting as when he played with Jimmy Smith.

He is famous for using his thumb instead of a pick. This is produces a recognizable sound for Wes or anyone trying to faithfully capture his technique. He played a Gibson L5-CES archtop guitar for much of his career. This is a carved solid top guitar with a large, 17 inch wide body.

The second and third jazz guitar albums I owned (back when albums were vinyl and Wes was still alive) were Tequila and California Dreaming by Wes Montgomery. He had already begun to turn out albums of popular tunes with orchestration designed to reach a wider audience. Jazz purists of the time (and even today) were critical of his choice to leave straight jazz and pander to popular tastes. My own opinion is that it is a difficult path to walk between pure principal and financial success and I don’t begrudge Wes for making money. However, as a jazz fan, I think some of his better work is from his earlier period. I also remember being somewhat disappointed with the pop California Dreaming album when I bought it.


Jazz standard, Impressions

One of my favorite Wes tunes, Full House.

Windy. Had Wes sold out to popular tastes or was he just supporting his family?

Influenced by Wes? George Benson doing Tequila and Lee Ritenour doing Four on Six.

Purchase Music by Wes

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