Modern jazz giant and guitarist Wes Montgomery has already been the subject of a previous Resonance issue in 2015 with ‘In the beginning: 1949-1958’. This new release takes the story one year forward to a live recording from January 1959 at the Indianapolis Jazz Club (IJC). Backed by a local trio of leader Eddie Higgins on piano, Walter Perkins on drums and an unknown bassist, this is a welcome first issue that showcases six standards including Ellington and Monk. Higgins is clearly a disciple of Errol Garner, but a distinguished performer nonetheless. Unlike some of the issues by Resonance, this is a no-frills presented album. However, the music is strong enough in its own right to warrant a first issue and the genesis behind the music being discovered is that the tapes were in the possession of photojournalist Duncan Schiedt who co-owned the original jazz club.
While no rediscovery could ever compete with the superlative live ‘Smokin’ at the Half Note’ which is the definitive Wes Montgomery live recording, this 1959 date is surprisingly good with a clear, crisp quality sound and Montgomery is immediately recognisable from the outset. It begins with a lovely relaxed, extended jam on ‘Give me the simple life’ which comes across as the kind of soundtrack that French film director Jacques Tati might have utilised whereas he ups a gear on the leisurely mid-tempo rendition of ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’. This is a number that weighs in at just under three minutes, a harbinger, perhaps, of his later period work on A&M/CTI. A blues-inflected piano intro to ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ places the focus firmly on Higgins and he proves well up to the task. While the extra slow reading of Neal Hefti’s, ‘Li’l Darling’ sounds slightly odd, the gentle, understated interpretation of Monk’s ‘Ruby my dear’ adds new meaning to the composition. The only pity is that there is not a greater balance between tempi with the emphasis mainly on the balladry work of Wes. That said, it makes for a fuller picture of the musician and works a treat as a parallel album to ‘The incredible jazz guitar of Wes Montgomery’.