Wes Montgomery: the great jazz guitarist

Wes Montgomery, born in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 6, 1923 and died on June 15, 1968, was a guitarist renowned for his American jazz. He is considered one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time.

During his career, Wes Montgomery released albums that made jazz history, and received awards for his contributions. His innovative style and technique were unique, and he inspired musicians around the world.

Wes Montgomery biography

Wes Montgomery was the seventh of nine siblings. His family lived in Indianapolis, where Wes learned to play guitar at the age of 11. Driven by a deep passion for jazz, he began learning from the records he played on his phonograph. By the age of 18, he was already working at a local club in Indianapolis.

In 1949, Wes Montgomery left Indianapolis for New York to begin his musical career. He signed with Riverside Records and began recording his first albums. In 1959, he signed with Verve Records and released his first studio album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. For this first album, he composed his famous song Round Midnight.

The album was an immediate success, and helped Wes Montgomery gain international recognition. Over the next six years, he released eight studio albums, including the famous “Goin ‘Out Of My Head” (1965). In 1966, he released a live album entitled “In Paris”, which won a Grammy Award.

Wes Montgomery’s unique style

Wes Montgomery’s unique style developed from classic and contemporary jazz pieces. He is known for his fluid phrasing and flexible, expressive approach. His playing is characterized by unusual fingering – he uses mainly the thumb and other fingers to play simple and complex notes. This unique technique contributed to his distinctive style.

Wes Montgomery was also renowned for his ability to improvise and adopt complex, subtle solos. He developed a highly personal form of improvisation known as octave playing. This style allows guitarists to use the upper or lower octave of chords to create interesting and varied riffs.

Wes Montgomery’s influence

Wes Montgomery’s music has had a lasting impact on jazz and beyond. Many modern musicians, including Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Bill Frisell, have expressed their admiration for his style and contribution to music. Wes Montgomery’s influence extends to other musical genres, including rock, blues and funk.

Numerous organizations and institutions have also paid tribute to Wes Montgomery, organizing events and festivals to honor his memory. In 2017, his work was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and he received the prestigious National Award of Distinction.

Wes Montgomery’s discography

Wes Montgomery released numerous albums during his career. The best-known are :

  • The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery (1959)
  • Goin’ Out Of My Head (1965)
  • Movin’ Along With Wes Montgomery (1966)
  • California Dreaming (1967)
  • A Day in the Life (1968)

Riverside (1958-1964)

  • 1958: Fingerpickin’
  • 1958: Far Wes
  • 1959: The Wes Montgomery Trio
  • 1959: Yesterdays
  • 1959: Pretty Blue
  • 1960: The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
  • 1960: Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners
  • 1960: Movin’ Along
  • 1961: So Much Guitar
  • 1961: George Shearing & The Montgomery Brothers(Love Walked In) (Jazzland)
  • 1962: Bags Meets Wes! (with Milt Jackson)
  • 1962: Wes and Friends (with Milt Jackson & George Shearing – albums Bags meets Wes! & Love walked In) (Milestone)
  • 1962: Full House
  • 1963: Fusion: Wes Montgomery with Strings (arranged by Jimmy Jones)
  • 1963: Boss Guitar
  • 1963: Portrait of Wes
  • 1963: Guitar on the Go
  • 1963: The Alternative Wes Montgomery
  • 1964: Panorama

Verve (1964-1966)

  • 1964: Movin’ Wes
  • 1965: Bumpin’ (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky)
  • 1965: Smokin’ at the Half Note (with Wynton Kelly Trio)
  • 1965: Goin’ Out of My Head (arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson)
  • 1966: California Dreaming (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky)
  • 1966: Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (with Jimmy Smith)
  • 1966: Tequila (arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman)
  • 1966: Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo (with Jimmy Smith)
  • 1969: Willow Weep for Me
  • 1970: Eulogy

A&M (1967-1968)

  • 1967: A Day in the Life (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky) (A&M Records/CTI Records)
  • 1968: Down Here on the Ground (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky) (A&M/CTI)
  • 1968: Road Song (arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky) (A&M/CTI)

Resonance Records

  • 2017: Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (with Wynton Kelly Trio) (recorded 1966)


  • 1960: Cannonball Adderley and the Poll Winners by Cannonball Adderley)
  • 1960: West Coast Blues! by Harold Land)
  • 1960: Work Song by Nat Adderley)

How can I find Wes Montgomery albums?

You can easily find Wes Montgomery albums online. On Amazon, you’ll find a wide selection of his albums, as well as numerous books and DVDs. If you want to buy a physical album, you can find local record shops and vinyl stores. You can also take advantage of fast home or in-store delivery.

Wes Montgomery was a brilliant jazz guitarist with a lasting influence on the music scene. Despite his untimely death in 1968, his work has continued to inspire future generations. The music he produced will remain forever etched in music history.

Frequently asked questions about Wes Montgomery

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