This is why I love modern technology, specifically YouTube.
One day a while back I was noodling around online when I decided I wanted to listen to some music. Being lazy, I didn’t want to spend the few extra seconds opening up iTunes on my computer, so I zipped over to YouTube. I was in the mood for some jazz, and I realized that I had never seen any video of Wes Montgomery playing live. None. I knew there was some video out there, but I also knew it was pretty rare to see him in action, most likely due to his untimely death in 1968 at the age of 45.
So I typed in Wes Montgomery in the search box and let ‘er rip. And sure enough, within seconds I was watching Wes play, with that inimitable technique, right before my eyes. I was actually a little stunned. That’s Wes, I thought. Holy crap, that’s Wes. Had I seen this in my younger, practice-guitar-for-hours days, I would have grabbed my guitar and attempted to cop his thumb technique by starting and pausing the video on every frame until my eyes hurt. Instead, I just sat dumbfounded, watching a legend at work.
The video itself is a bit of an oddity. It is actually three separate sessions from 1965 while Wes was touring in Europe. Some of the dates are from London, some from Holland. The tunes run the gamut from up-tempo burners like Impressions and Four on Six, to mellow ballads like Here’s That Rainy Day. And of course there’s some blues.
The actual tunes don’t matter so much to me though. What matters is that it’s there. Wes Montgomery has influenced just about every modern guitarist in the world, and that’s not hyperbole. And I’m not just talking about jazz guitarists – consider Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai. Pat Metheny has called Wes the greatest guitarist of all time, and it’s hard to argue. The fact that it’s possible to watch Wes play, play anything, is such a gift.
Metheny wrote the excellent liner notes for this DVD (wherein he calls him the greatest). You can read them on his website here.
YouTube: Impressions Live