Resonance Records will release Echoes of Indiana Avenue, the first full album of previously unheard Wes Montgomery music in over 25 years, on March 6, which would have been Montgomery’s 88th birthday. The tapes are the earliest known recordings of Montgomery as a leader, pre-dating his 1959 debut on Riverside Records. The album showcases Montgomery in performance from 1957-1958 at nightclubs in his hometown of Indianapolis, Ind., as well as rare studio recordings. The release contains previously unseen photographs and insightful essays by noted music writers and musicians, including guitarist Pat Martino and Montgomery’s brothers Buddy and Monk.
Montgomery is joined on the session by drummer Paul Parker and keyboardist Melvin Rhyne (who would later appear on Montgomery’s first Riverside release), pianist Earl Van Riper, bassist Mingo Jones and drummer Sonny Johnson, as well as brothers Monk on acoustic bass and Buddy on piano (the brothers featured on one track). Included are renditions of Shorty Rogers’ “Diablo’s Dance,” Erroll Garner’s “Misty” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train” as well as jazz standards “Darn That Dream” and “Body and Soul.” Montgomery also plays an improvised “After Hours Blues,” and duets with organist Rhyne on Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” and Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream.” Montgomery and his brothers also tackle Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.”
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, who had tried selling the tapes on eBay, contacted Michael Cuscuna, the respected veteran producer who has had a long track record with Blue Note Records and is also the 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’s support that we were able to make this project possible.”
The result, in addition to the fully restored music, is a 24-page deluxe digipak showcasing rare family photographs that are being seen for the very first time, including a humorous shot of Montgomery (in costume) and friends taken on Halloween. There are also some of the most classic earlier photos of Montgomery taken by iconic jazz photographer, Duncan Scheidt. Veteran jazz journalists Dan Morgenstern and Bill Milkowski contribute essays, as do jazz guitar great Pat Martino and Indiana-based jazz educator Dr. David N. Baker, whom Feldman cites as a key catalyst on the project.
In addition to its release via physical CD and digital formats, Resonance has created a hand-numbered, hand-assembled LP edition pressed by audiophile embraced Record Technology, Inc. (RTI) and with a deluxe gatefold LP jacket by Stoughton Press. The two 12″ LPs were mastered by the legendary Bernie Grundman at 45 RPM for the best sound. Resonance is also offering a free digital booklet with purchase where available (which will contain all of the content in the physical editions).
Echoes of Indiana Avenue consists of three different sessions, one studio and two live. Four of the tracks were recorded at the Hub Bub, a long-forgotten jazz club in Indianapolis. The title of the collection refers to a longstanding popular commercial strip in Indianapolis, with historical roots.