Wes Montgomery made a name for himself by applying a formulaic method of combining single note lines, octaves, and block chords to create the illusion of a big band within a small group setting. This formula, the essence of Montgomery’s inimitable approach to the guitar, is a dominating presence on Full House, the guitarist's classic live recording from 1962. Recorded at Club Tsubo in Berkeley, California, Full House is an outstanding session featuring the muscular tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin and top drawer rhythm section of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
Montgomery’s legendary rendering of "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face" is a classic example of chord melody technique for jazz guitar that continues to be studied by aspiring jazz guitarists. The arrangement is beautifully structured and, although a ballad, propels with quiet intensity.
Dizzy Gillespie’s "Blue ‘N’ Boogie" is played at a perfect tempo for Montgomery to display his jaw-dropping facility. The octave runs in his solo are astonishing; they have an element of elasticity, stretching any preconceived notions concerning the limitations of the guitar. After a well crafted outing by Wynton Kelly, Griffin proceeds to tear the house down with chorus after chorus of emotionally driven ideas. The way he moves in and out from angular, dissonant sounding lines to greasy, down home shouts at just the right moment elicits fervent approval from both band and audience.
Montgomery’s "Cariba" is a funky-latin blues with a catchy, punctuated melody. The soulful groove that Chambers and Cobb lay down is infectious. It has a commercially oriented sound; the kind that would benefit the guitarist's finances in subsequent years. Montgomery takes a lively approach and caps off his solo with a series of accented octave riffs sounding like bullets ricocheting off the walls of the club.
Montgomery was always at his best in the company of giants of his stature with Milt Jackson on Bags Meets Wes (Riverside, 1961), and Jimmy Smith on The Dynamic Duo (Verve, 1966) and sharing the stage with a powerhouse like Griffin is no exception. Full House is a sonic delight and is essential to the legacy of jazz guitar.