The rule of thumb with Wes Montgomery’s music is that the earlier the recording, the better and more creative it is. Early in his career he was a sideman but by 1958 he was signed to the Riverside label and for the next six years he created a body of work that helped define the jazz guitar for the next several generations of musicians who would follow.
He released an incredible 18 albums during his time with Riverside, so it is always a treat when some unreleased material is unearthed. That brings us to an old 7” tape reel recording that was recently discovered of a 1959 live performance by Montgomery, backed by pianist Eddie Higgins, drummer Walter Perkins, and a bassist whose name has been lost to history.
Duncan Schiedt was a photo journalist, filmmaker, author, and jazz aficionado who ran the Indianapolis Jazz Club with friends for a number of years and before his death in 2014 passed on a tape of the only known live performance of Montgomery and Higgins performing together.
The six tracks follow the same formula. Higgins establishes the melody and then Montgomery improvises on top of the piano. Sometimes his excursions are true to the songs melody but at other times he twists them all out of shape.
The opening track, the nine minute “Give Me The Simple Life,” is an introduction of what is to come. Montgomery’s guitar flits in and out of Higgins piano runs as they establish a double melody. “Lil Darling” has an extended Montgomery solo. He had a delicate and precise touch and his sound here is immediately recognizable. “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” finds the drums, piano, and guitar creating a three layered melodic effect. “Ruby My Dear” is a Thelonious Monk composition and Montgomery travels an eclectic route as he pushes the melody to the outer edges of its structure.
One Night In Indy finds Wes Montgomery performing live at the beginning of what will be the most fertile part of his career. The sound is adequate, which is normal for a recording in a small club in 1959. Still, it finds a mature artist combining with a first-rate pianist. A fine addition to Montgomery’s early legacy.