This video gives you a glimpse at the masterful, electric jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery in three very different studio and performance settings, with three very different groups of musicians. The camera angles are from the guitarist perspective, detailing the Montgomery technique. This classic Jazz Icons DVD includes a bonus 20-page booklet, with extensive liner notes by guitar authority Pat Metheny that makes for very interesting reading. Wes Montgomery Live In ’65 maintains the Jazz Icons series as one of the best produced DVD’s, and Jazz Icons as the best at uncovering jazz treasures.
Jazz can at times be too cool, almost cold, with musicians that seem only concerned with their performance and look to an audience as a near distraction. The first segment of this movie comes off with a wonderfully warm and joyful performance by a group of European musicians and American jazz idol, Wes Montgomery. It almost seems as if you are in the studio listening to a practice session, observing the interaction of these laid back musicians as they play around, joke with one another and create beautiful, spontaneous, musical creations. Montgomery plays the leader, composer and joyful participant along with skilful pianist Pim Jacobs, his brother, bassist Ruud and the dynamic drummer, Han Bennick.
The second segment, 'Belgium '65,' features Montgomery with his own band of imported musicians; this would have been a working group that had played together at various gigs. The band runs through five tunes in what appears to be a television studio and it sounds polished. The difference between this performance and the first performance in Holland is like night and day. The performance in Holland is loose and easy going while the performance in Belgium is tight and professional. It is a treat to see and hear this band, with Harold Maybern, Jimmy Lovelace and Arthur Harper who are all playing with serious intensity behind the melodic Wes Montgomery who is still playing in a relaxed manner with his trademark, mellow tone.
The final segment 'England in '65' is shot as a documentary special, with a smooth talking introduction by a sophisticated English gentleman, David Mahlowe, followed by a jazz specialist, Ronnie Scott, explaining who Wes Montgomery is. The session features Montgomery with an English pick-up band. The band sounds good, however the feel is stiff, almost sterile. Pianist Stan Tracey is capable enough, he just doesn’t seem to have the personal spark to drive the rhythm section. Bassist Rick Laird and drummer Jackie Dougan are also in jazz cool mode and seem reserved, as does leader Wes Montgomery.
Listening to the soundtrack alone is a different experience, the music comes off tight and has an upbeat feel to it. The guitar is the feature and sounds as a combination of styles, smooth jazz with mellow tones, slide guitar interspersed with numerous chords and near classical technique.
My overall rating for the DVD Wes Montgomery Live In '65: Excellent on all levels.