Wes Montgomery’s album Full House is a unique album. It’s Montgomery’s 7th album and his first live album. Jazz music in general, is meant to be heard live. Seeing an elite group improvise on the spot and create a unique take on a song that will never be duplicated again, is invigorating. This album captures that spirit with multiple styles, different takes, and the applause from the crowd. This is one of my favorite Wes Montgomery albums particularly because of the energy you can feel being created by the musicians. I know this description is a bit abstract, but I’ll do my best to explain what I mean.
Jazz guitar, in my opinion, is a difficult thing to accomplish. The main reason is because traditional jazz has a particular sound and the guitar needs to sound as natural as possible. This means no effect pedals, or at least as little electronics as possible, just an electric guitar and a amp. This, in my opinion, causes most jazz guitarist to sound the same. A jazz guitarist has to work even harder to have a unique voice. Of course, most guitarist aren’t Wes Montgomery. This album reads like a who’s who of Jazz Wynton Kelly on piano, Johnny Griffin on saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums and, Wes Montgomery on guitar. The live recording begins with jazz standard “Full House” written by Wes Montgomery himself.
The title track “Full House” starts off electric. Montgomery brings in the melody with Griffin. They play in perfect unison as Jimmy Cobb nails every hit on the drums. Montgomery has a very melodic solo it builds with intensity but he never really speeds up. It’s the kind of solo you can sing along to after a while. Griffin comes in with a lot of conviction and intensity. Hearing Griffin solo after Montgomery really shows the ways different instruments can solo over the same progression. Griffin can play with a bit more conviction and his high notes resonate loud and clear. After Griffin’s solo Wynton Kelly plays with his signature style lots of blues riffs, bebop, and melodic lines on the piano. Following Wynton Kelly’s solo the melody returns and a classic record is complete.
After “Full House” is “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face“. This song features Wes Montgomery playing with Cobb drumming with brushes in the background, later on you can hear Chambers walking a bit on bass. I feel this is appropriate for this song it’s played at a slow speed, with passion, sorrow, and sincerity. Especially since this is a live recording I feel Montgomery played this song with sorrow and sincerity in mind. The record is quiet and elongated with minimal influence by the other musicians. After this song the recording takes a left turn with “Blues N Boggie” this song is a lot more uptempo and the solos reflect that. Compared to the other songs we have listened to everyone plays with more speed and more notes. Overall the quintet does a good job of adjusting to this change of pace and they all interact well with each other creating hits and listening to what the other musicians are doing and reacting to it.
Next is “Cariba” which, on the 2007 reissue, has the added treat of take one of “Cariba”. The original release is, in my opinion, the best version, but I still enjoy seeing a different take on the song from the same group. It drives my point home that this is what separates Jazz from other genres, you can hear the same group play the same song and hear it played in a completely different way. On “Cariba” take one, everyone solos differently, the song begins with a drum intro, and the first solo is on bass. “S.O.S.”, “Born to Blue”, and “Come Rain Or Shine” all have alternate takes which are a pleasure to listen to as well. So if this album is still missing from your collection I strongly recommend buying the reissue.
Overall this is an excellent album and even more amazing that it is all being played live. I mean, coming from a musician, it’s humbling listening to this quintet adapt and experiment together at such a high level in front of an audience. A nice combination of songs as well a Waltz, uptempo, some blues, a ballad, and some latin. You get a nice balance that is exciting and constantly changing and, with the reissue ,you get different takes on these songs by the quintet. Pick this album up if you haven’t already it’s a must for any lover of guitar, live music, and, of course, Jazz. and, as always, thank you for staying in The Jazz Loop.