Title: Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings
Artist: Wes Montgomery
Formats: 2-CD set, Limited Ed. LP, Digital
Release date: April 26, 2019
Resonance Records has made yet another miraculous discovery, extending its documentation of legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery’s early career and sharing the results with us. I had the great pleasure of contributing reviews of this company’s two earlier releases that set the stage for the wonderful performances captured on this new release, One Night in Indy and In the Beginning. For those readers with ties to Indiana, it is worth noting that this release was prepared with assistance of a number of notable artists and scholars, among them David Baker, Duncan Schiedt, Jamey Aebersold, Royce Campbell, and John Edward Hasse. They, along with others, attempted to identify the musicians who accompanied Wes. Some possibilities are also identified in the photographs included in the comprehensive notes that accompany this release. Visible there are Larry Ridley, Melvin Rhyne, David Baker, David Young, Pookie Johnson, Buddy and Monk Montgomery, Carroll DeCamp, and Hal Grant. But despite their collective wisdom, specific personnel cannot be conclusively linked to each recorded performance. But no matter, the results are consistently musical, reflecting creativity at the highest possible level. Sound quality proves the considerable care taken in preparing these invaluable recordings. Both the solos and collective interplay among the musicians are clearly captured, bringing the listener right into the spirit of each performance.
I will not make detailed comments about the historical setting and relationship to Wes’s career, since my reviews of the two earlier releases already provide many of these details. Suffice it to note that the tunes included in this set are grouped in the following three categories, providing considerable variety for your listening experience:
- Piano Quartets with Guitar, Piano, Bass, and Drums (seven tunes on first CD)
- Organ Trio and Sextet with Trombone and Saxophone (six tunes on first CD)
- Nat “King” Cole-Style Trios with Guitar, Piano, and Bass (nine tunes on second CD)
The following collective personnel performing in these recordings are listed:
- guitar – Wes Montgomery
- trombone – David Baker
- tenor saxophone – David Young
- piano – Earl Van Riper, Buddy Montgomery, John Bunch, Carl Perkins, Melvin Rhyne
- organ – Melvin Rhyne
- bass – Monk Montgomery, Mingo Jones
- drums – Paul Parker, Sonny Johnson
It is worth noting that Tom Lord’s online publication, The Jazz Discography, while repeating the above listing of collective personnel, adds Larry Ridley on bass, listed in an email dated April 28, 2019 from pianist, author and historian Lewis Porter.
I did note in my review of One Night in Indy that there was one known performance that was not included, namely “How Come You Do Me Like You Do.” That one tune still remains available only on a limited issue CD that was made for members of the Indianapolis Jazz Club long ago, but it still managed to escape attention for this release. For dedicated jazz collectors, there are always more treasures to be discovered.
The tunes performed in this release frame the foundations of Wes’s groundbreaking release on Riverside Records, The Incredible Guitar of Wes Montgomery, recorded one or two years later on January 26, 1960. Both his unique chorded and single note approaches are combined in spirited performances of tunes familiar to his fans, including “Four on Six,” “Jingles,” “‘Round Midnight,” “Ecaroh,” “The End of a Love Affair,” “Whisper Not,” “Mr. Walker,” and “West Coast Blues.”
If you enjoy the magic that Wes creates in his early performances, you MUST purchase this set. If you are unfamiliar with this phase of Wes’s development, you will be delighted to discover these recordings. In either case, you will be motivated to acquire the other treasures that Resonance Records has resurrected from previously unknown sources. The notes stated that this release was in preparation for seven years, showing the commitment of the producers to documenting Wes’s artistry. They deserve our deep thanks for sharing this music and celebrating the artistry of Indiana’s own Wes Montgomery. I urge you to support their efforts. You will listen more than once to these historic recordings.
Reviewed by Thomas P. Hustad
Author of Born to Play: The Ruby Braff Discography and Directory of Performances