Wes Montgomery - Echoes Of Indiana Avenue
Review by Willard Manus

Resonance Records has paid tribute to the late, highly- esteemed guitarist Wes Montgomery by issuing a CD which showcases some of his previously unknown work, which predated his historic 1959 debut on Riverside Records. ECHOES OF INDIANA AVENUE contains nine tunes that capture the youthful guitarist in full flight while he was still residing in his hometown of Indianapolis.

Four of the tunes were recorded live in nightclubs on Indiana Avenue, the center of post-war black Indianapolis. Known simply as The Avenue, the strip contained a slew of jazz venues-- the Cotton Club, Henri's, the Missile Room, to name just a few-- where visiting artists like J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, Carl Perkins and Freddie Hubbard lit up the night with the help of such local luminaries as pianist Errol Grandy, saxophonist Pookie Johnson and drummer Otis "Killer Ray" Appleton.

It was there on The Avenue that Wes Montgomery got his start, often playing alongside his brothers Buddy and Monk, both of whom can be heard with him on the Resonance release. Thanks to sound restoration and digital mastering, the original recording effort (by an unknown fan) has been given a fresh, modern overhaul.

On all nine tracks Montgomery plays with joyous energy and creativity, beginning with the Latin-flavored Diablo's Dance and continuing with expressive interpretations of such jazz classics as Round Midnight, Straight No Chaser and Take The A Train. Four of the tracks were recorded live, possibly at the Hub Bub, where members of the audience expressed appreciation for Montgomery's funky fingerboard work on After Hours Blues and kept shouting rowdily all throughout his 6 1/2-minute improvisation.

Montgomery, who died suddenly in 1968 of a heart attack, has been well served by the release of these long-lost tapes. The album is not only a welcome addition to his body of work but an important reminder of the once-illustrious history of black Indianapolis.