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Jazz Notes: Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly Star in a Newly Discovered Recording

By Denin Koch, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, May 9, 2017

Guitarist Wes Montgomery and pianist Wynton Kelly trio’s 1965 masterpiece Smokin’ at the Half Note is considered by many to be the greatest jazz guitar album of all time. As such, the release of a previously undiscovered recording of these musicians just seven months after the Half Note sessions is a major event not only for guitarists but the entire jazz community. Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse on Resonance Records lives up to the legacy of its older cousin and is a must-listen for all jazz guitar fans.

Four of the ten tracks are performed by the trio of Kelly, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb, while the remaining six feature Montgomery. The level of communication and understanding among these four musicians rivals any of the other great ensembles of the day. At times, the effect is so surreal that one wonders how this music can be improvised, such as when Montgomery guides the ensemble into a unison rhythm on “Jingles” and all four men release the rhythmic tension at the same moment. Two tunes from Half Note, “If You Could See Me Now” and “What’s New,” get beautiful readings here as well, with the guitarist’s lyricism as thoughtful and careful as ever. The only flaws here are the fade-out endings on “Oleo” and “Blues in F,” necessary because the recordings were originally broadcast live on a Seattle radio station.

Simply put, the quartet of Wes Montgomery and the Wynton Kelly Trio is one of the most swinging bands ever assembled. All four musicians (and including bassist Paul Chambers, who played the original Half Note sessions) are considered among the all-time greats on their instruments, and that mastery shines through here. Smokin’ in Seattle is an incredible find that is a gift to jazz fans. This is jazz music at its finest.

Rating: 9.5/10
Standout Tracks: “Jingles,” “There is No Greater Love,” “O Morro Nao Tam Vez”



Cover: (l. to r.) Wynton Kelly; photo courtesy of; Wes Montgomery; photo courtesy of Dr. Willis Kirk.



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