Wes Montgomery: One Night in Indy

It is early 1959, which means it’s still going to take a touch of time for Wes Montgomery to ramp up the ol’ fretboard chops. But how warming this live session must have been on a cold Indianapolis night. The circumstances of the date have a charm to them that follows when buddies get together to share records and host the occasional band, as was the case here.

This one features an unknown bassist who has an accord with Montgomery, even if he can’t stroll out as far musically. For that there is pianist Eddie Higgins. One could even say that Higgins’ pianistic forays informed Montgomery’s attempts to diversify his hard-bop sound. On “Ruby, My Dear,” Higgins is a Minton’s-friendly pre-dawn blues poet, transforming 12-bar structures into waves of indigo that build conversationally, confessionally, like dark colors unburdening themselves of what it’s like not to be bright. Montgomery’s guitar then offers its version of this same bluesy mulling, a growth spurt in balladic vein.

“You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” is familiar as the eventual Boss Guitar brand of Montgomery strutting, but it is “Stompin’ at the Savoy” that provides the sort of “aw, come on” virtuosity that Montgomery could drop on you out of nowhere. Triplets like flashes of light all but strobe, and note clusters shake with vibrato. You get the sense that this is the number for that buddy who was most enthusiastic about having Mr. Montgomery stop by. He must have received many back claps.