Guitarist Wes Montgomery began his recording career with Lionel Hampton's band in 1948. His tour with Hampton lasted until 1950, when he returned to his native Indianapolis and began to raise a family. Though Montgomery recorded with his brothers Monk and Buddy in 1955 and 1957, he didn't start to record as a leader until April 1958 (for Pacific Jazz) and then starting in 1959 for Riverside. [Photo of Wes Montgomery by Duncan Scheidt]
As I write in today's Wall Street Journal (go here), Resonance Records on Tuesday will release Wes Montgomery: Echoes of Indiana Avenue—nine newly discovered and previously unheard tracks by Montgomery leading three different groups. The assumed dates of these recordings are 1957 and 1958—apparently just before the guitarist signed with Pacific Jazz—and they were likely recorded in Indianapolis.
The tape holding these tracks first surfaced in 1990. The person who bought the tape transferred the audio onto digital files. A few of these tracks were sent to producer Michael Cuscuna years later to gauge his interest. Since pre-1960 recordings of Montgomery as a leader are so scarce, Michael bought them. More recently, he sold the tape to Resonance. (By the way, this is the same label that issued the CD Scott LaFaro: Pieces of Jade in 2009.)
Resonance founder George Klabin and restoration specialist Fran Gala went to work on the tape. They've managed to produce one of the finest-sounding recordings of the year by using new software. The digital restoration process allowed them to completely remove ambient noise—including the sound of a drill from a room next to the studio where Montgomery was recording.
At a time when major labels are singing the financial blues and only Mosaic is doing deep historic dives to detail classic jazz recordings and artists, Resonance is a welcome addition. What makes Resonance special is how great their issues sound. For that, we can thank the collective passions of Michael Cuscuna, George Klabin, Fran Gala and Zev Feldman.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Wes Montgomery: Echoes of Indiana Avenue at Amazon—starting on Tuesday.
JazzWax clip: Here's a promo clip for the album's release...