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Wynton Kelly Trio with Wes Montgomery Smoking' at the Half Note

10. Wynton Kelly Trio with Wes Montgomery: Smokin’ at the Half Note (Verve, 1965)
Pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb were regarded as perhaps the finest rhythm section in jazz when they backed Miles Davis. Why not spin off into a trio of their own? They were indeed electric as a self-sustaining unit, but it took another charismatic genius—guitarist Wes Montgomery—to lift them back into the stratosphere. He’s a guest, but from the get-go (Miles’ “No Blues”), he interacts with the trio as smartly and empathetically as if they were a long-lived working band. Montgomery’s solo on “If You Could See Me Now” is a stone-cold masterpiece, a universe unto itself. His solos on “Unit 7” and the marathon “Four on Six” aren’t far behind, and Kelly and Chambers also reach peaks on “What’s New?” and “No Blues,” respectively. Hard bop is too nuanced and wide-ranging a genre to have an epitome, per se, but there’s a strong argument for this album earning that title anyway.

Find Smokin’ at the Half Note on Amazon and Apple Music.