All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery Wes Montgomery

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States (where he also died of a heart attack in 1968), Montgomery came from a musical family, in which his brothers, Monk (string bass and electric bass) and Buddy (vibraphone, and piano), were jazz performers. Although Wes was not skilled at reading music, he could learn complex melodies and riffs by ear. Montgomery started learning guitar in his late teens, listening to and learning recordings of his idol, the guitarist Charlie Christian.

Along with the use of octaves (playing the same note on two strings one octave apart) for which he is widely known, Montgomery was also an excellent “single-line” or “single-note” player, and was very influential in the use of block chords in his solos. His playing on the jazz standard “Lover Man” is an example of his single-note, octave and block chord soloing. (”Lover Man” appears on the Fantasy album THE MONTGOMERY BROTHERS.)

Instead of using a guitar pick, Montgomery plucked the strings with the fleshy part of his thumb, using downstrokes for single notes and a combination of upstrokes and downstrokes for chords and octaves. This technique enabled him to get a mellow, expressive tone from his guitar. George Benson, in the liner notes of the Ultimate Wes Montgomery album, wrote that “Wes had a corn on his thumb, which gave his sound that point. He would get one sound for the soft parts, and then that point by using the corn. That's why no one will ever match Wes. And his thumb was double- jointed. He could bend it all the way back to touch his wrist, which he would do to shock people.”

Read more

Tags

Photos

Albums

Album Wes’s Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance by Wes Montgomery

Wes’s Best: The...

Resonance Records
2019

buy
Album In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording by Wes Montgomery

In Paris: The...

Resonance Records
2018

buy
Album One Night in Indy by Wes Montgomery

One Night in Indy

Resonance Records
2018

buy
Album Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966) by Wes Montgomery

Smokin’ in Seattle:...

Resonance Records
2017

buy
Album Wes Montgomery: In The Beginning-Early Recordings from 1949-1958 by Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery: In...

Resonance Records
2015

buy
Album Live At The Turf Club by Wes Montgomery

Live At The Turf Club

Resonance Records
2014

buy

Watch

Similar

Miles Davis Miles Davis
trumpet
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
John Coltrane John Coltrane
saxophone
Kenny Burrell Kenny Burrell
guitar, electric
Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins
saxophone
Pat Martino Pat Martino
guitar
Joe Pass Joe Pass
guitar
Stan Getz Stan Getz
saxophone, tenor
Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
saxophone
Barney Kessel Barney Kessel
guitar, electric
Grant Green Grant Green
guitar
Robben Ford Robben Ford
guitar

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.