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Wynton Kelly Trio/Wes Montgomery: Smokin’ in Seattle (Resonance)

"Live at the Penthouse" sessions from Jim Wilke's KING FM broadcasts

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Wynton Kelly Trio/Wes Montgomery: "Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse"
Wynton Kelly Trio/Wes Montgomery: “Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse”

Like most archival labels, Resonance finds its material in many strange places: private collections, audience tapes, soundboard cassettes, lost studio recordings. Early in 2017, with the release of Groovin’ Hard by the Three Sounds, Resonance began to tap into the stash of Jim Wilke, the distinguished jazz DJ. Between 1962 and 1968, Wilke had a radio program on KING-FM in Seattle every Thursday, broadcast “live and direct” from the Penthouse, the city’s legendary, now long-defunct jazz club. The station recorded all the half-hour programs.

This second release from Wilke’s KING tapes has oddities. There are two partial sets, from successive Thursdays in April 1966, five tunes per set, with the last tune attenuated in a fade (to fit the half hour). Because the Wynton Kelly Trio (with bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb) opened each set by themselves, four of the 10 tracks (over half the running time) do not contain Wes Montgomery. The guitar sound is bright and weird. (Pat Metheny, in his personal, passionate liner notes, speculates that Montgomery was using a travel instrument and/or a borrowed amp.)

Only a fool would complain. Twenty-eight new minutes of Wynton Kelly is a windfall. His touch was magic. He made the piano a source of silver light and pure spiritual joy. The album opens with a seven-chorus outpouring on “There Is No Greater Love” that will take you right out of yourself. The second number on each Thursday is a deep, rapt ballad. “Not a Tear” and “If You Could See Me Now” are high drama, in ecstatic embellishments and rolling, resounding tremolos.

When Montgomery first hits the stage he knocks you back in your chair. On “Jingles,” his racing lines are brilliance burned into the Seattle night. “West Coast Blues” is his life in four minutes—down-and-dirty, elegant, tight, complete in itself. On Jobim’s “O Morro Não Tem Vez” he arrays all the famous extraordinary elements of his style. The flying single-note runs become climactic unison octaves and more climactic chordal-melodic finalities.

Only two other recordings of Montgomery with Kelly have been available until now. Smokin’ in Seattle is invaluable history, rescued from the merciless ravages of time.

Originally Published