Round Midnight with Wes Montgomery

July 5, 2009 | By | Reply More

Have you ever heard music that not only fully engages you at the moment, but which you carry with you wherever you go, even years later?  Music that seeps into your bones and shapes who you become?   Now that’s quite an endorsement, right?   I’ve already written about a couple musicians I greatly admired, including Oscar Peterson and Pat Metheny.

Another one of my musical heroes was Wes Montgomery.   He died an untimely death as a result of a heart attack in 1968, several years before I began to study jazz guitar.  But I played his albums until I wore out the grooves (yes, I’m that old), especially Smokin’ at the Half Note.   I worked ever so hard to do what Montgomery did, but he made it look far too easy.  This is especially amazing for a guy who didn’t learn to play the guitar until he was 19, and who was self-taught at that.  You can’t possibly appreciate how difficult it is to be that melodic unless you try to do it yourself, for years.  You can’t understand the magic of his chordal technique and his octave solos unless you spend long hours urging your own fingers to try to emulate Wes Montgomery.   There’s a lot more too.   Because I worked hard at it, I learned that you can get a beautiful tone out of an electric guitar if you give up the pick and use your thumb,  but I still can’t understand how he could rip off some of those quick riffs with his thumb.

For decades, I’ve listened to Wes Montgomery’s music, but I had never actually seen a video of him playing until tonight.  I caught several youtubes, but most of them involved Montgomery later in his career, surrounded by (and suffocated by) too many other musicians, notably brass and string sections producers used to turn Montgomery’s jazz into pop music that the masses would better appreciate.  But this video is classic Wes Montgomery playing as part of a quartet.

If you’ve never before known about Wes Montgomery, watch (but mostly listen) this video of “Round Midnight” and see whether Montgomery’s music permeates all the way down into your bones too.   Ask yourself whether music can be made more compellingly than this.


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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