Seven guitarists participate in this well-conceived project: Kenny Burrell, Gene Bertoncini, Ted Dunbar, Kevin Eubanks, Rodney Jones, Jack Wilkins, and newcomer William Ash. Bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Akira Tana provide expert support. With the exception of Burrell’s poignant “Remembering Wes” and Jones’ meditative “Serena” (inspired by Wes’ own “Serene”), the selections were written and/or recorded by Montgomery during his lamentably short period on the national jazz scene.
Eubanks’ version of “Impressions” erupts like long-suppressed emotions while “Remembering Wes” lowers the temperature with a tender bossa groove. Burrell’s gradually building solo seems to reflect deep feelings for his long-time friend. “Groove Yard” gently swings under the influence of Bertoncini’s delicate but soulful sounding nylon string guitar.
Dunbar, who also knew Wes, and Eubanks gave a joint crash course in bluesology on “Friend Pies,” and Wilkins masterfully negotiates the changes to his bright swinging rendition of “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Also check out “Canadian Sunset,” which features Bertoncini, Eubanks, and Wilkins sans rhythm, and Ash’s fluent octaves on “Road Song.” All but Eubanks and Ash play on the closer, “Yesterdays,” whose hip Marc White arrangement climaxes with a quasi-fugal five way improv.
The warmth and eloquence of Wes and his music especially touched guitarists, as this beautiful cross-generational salute aptly demonstrates. Look forward to the second volume.
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