Mar 5, 2012
Lost tapes of Wes Montgomery, the highly original and influential guitar player, have been discovered and restored. Resonance Records releases Echoes of Indiana Avenue - the first full album of previously unheard Montgomery music in over 25 years - on March 6, which would have been Montgomery's 88th birthday. Over a year and a half in the making, the release provides a rare, revealing glimpse of a bona fide guitar legend. The tapes are the earliest known recordings of Montgomery as a leader, pre-dating his auspicious 1959 debut on Riverside Records. The album showcases Montgomery in performance from 1957-1958 at nightclubs in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, as well as rare studio recordings. The release is also beautifully packaged, containing previously unseen photographs and insightful essays by noted music writers and musicians alike, including guitarist Pat Martino and Montgomery's brothers Buddy and Monk.
How these long lost tapes from the early stage of Montgomery's solo career finally emerged after being on the shelf for more than 50 years is a tale of intrigue that will enthrall collectors and aficionados. Although the identity of the person who made the original recordings remains unknown, the tapes may have passed through several hands before they were eventually acquired in 1990 by a guitarist and Montgomery fan Jim Greeninger. Due to their fragile condition, he immediately made digital transfers of the original tapes and set out to make a deal with a record company. It wasn't until 2008 that Greeninger contacted Michael Cuscuna, the respected veteran producer who has had a long track record with Blue Note Records and is co-founder of Mosaic Records.
In the summer of 2010, Cuscuna contacted Zev Feldman of Resonance Records, who served as a producer on the project. "We had no idea when we got the tapes what they were exactly," Feldman recalls. "All we knew was that Wes was on them. So between 2010 and 2011, I made three trips to Indianapolis where I interviewed and discussed the recordings with scholars, musicians and friends of Wes. It was a big mystery and we had to act like gumshoes in piecing it all together. It was actually in part because of label founder and president George Klabin'ssupport that we were able to make this project possible."
I spoke with Zev as he was preparing not only for the release of this CD, but also birthday celebration event, which will pay homage to the guitarist in his hometown. The Indy Jazz Guitar Summit, Dr. David Baker, Robert Montgomery (Wes' son), Melvin Rhyne & Mingo Jones (both featured on the album), Duncan Schiedt (jazz photographer), and Feldman will be joined by the honorable Gregory A. Ballard (Mayor of Indianapolis) to celebrate the life and music of this legend.
Click here to listen to my talk with Zev Feldman, as well as music from Resonance Records projects, including:
Wes Montgomery – “Straight No Chaser” from Echoes of Indiana Avenue. Montgomery and his brothers Monk on acoustic bass and Buddy on piano tackle the Thelonious Monk classic with bop-ish authority.
Wes Montgomery – “After Hours Blues” from Echoes of Indiana Avenue. Feldman was particularly excited about discovering this bluesy track, which he thinks finds Wes channeling the likes of Pee Wee Crayton and T-Bone Walker.
Freddie Hubbard – “Blues for Duane” from Pinnacle – Live and Unreleased from Keystone Korner. Resonance transferred a cassette bootleg into a wonderful document of the late trumpet player’s virtuosity, here on a tune dedicated to his son Duane.