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Smokin' at the Half Note Live

4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Live, November 21, 1989
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Editorial Reviews

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Wes Montgomery brought the art of the electric guitar to new heights in the 1950s and 1960s before his untimely death at 43. His vaulting style employed octaves much as his main influence, Charlie Christian, did in the Benny Goodman Sextet. Montgomery's crowd-pleasing facility with the fretboard was best employed in live performance when he could stretch out and really be heard. Smokin' is a thoroughly satisfying live album recorded in 1965 and 1966 at the New York nightclub, with co-leader Wynton Kelly and his trio--Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Montgomery and Kelly are in perfect sync here, especially on "No Blues" and "If You Could See Me Now." --John Swenson
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 21, 1989)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Live
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B00000470Y
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,030 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Giuseppe C. HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Wes arrived late (he was 35) and checked out early (fewer than 10 years in the spotlight). Still, no guitarist has had a greater impact in the history of this music. By the time he had moved on from Riverside to this session for Verve, he had little to prove to musicians and was beginning to accept more accessible, popular assignments that would broaden his appeal to the general public. "Smokin'," despite lacking any tunes as challenging as "Airegin" ("The Incredible Guitar Artistry of"), can stand alongside his Riverside work as an example of creative, inspired playing. And the presence of Wyn Kelley along with Chambers and Cobb definitely raises the swing factor a notch.
If you're new to Wes, don't expect to be blown away by just one recording. Guitar is such a popular if not universal instrument that to be designated "number one" often seems to over-inflate listeners' expectations, inviting subsequent doubt and dissent. What sets Wes apart from the field is not pyrotechnical legerdemain or bold innovation but every "little" thing that he does so well so effortlessly so much of the time. The sound he gets out of the instrument is of itself a marvel. It has a deep and meaty, utterly natural, resonance, almost as if the tone is doubling itself, reminding me less of other guitarists than of Bird and Clifford. Additionally, there's never a microsecond of doubt in his playing or solo constructions. Nothing is tentative--in terms of notes, phrases, or choruses. It's all so completely lyrical and logical that the listener's biggest challenge can be not to take it for granted.
His solo on Sam Jones' "Unit 7" might serve as a touchstone to all of his playing.
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Format: Audio CD
Put the greatest jazz guitarist ever with Miles Davis' rhythm section and you get this. Couple Wes' amazing improvisation and ceaseless ideas with Wynton Kelly's classy embellishments, Paul Chambers' continuous drive, and Jimmy Cobb's tireless swing and you get something very close to utopia. Everything that made Wes great is in this recording.
As far as the reviewer who said Wes was half the guitarist that Joe Pass was, he's right in a sense. Wes' thumb style limited his speed, so he couldn't play as fast as some other guitarists. However, Wes had something that Joe Pass, Johnny Smith, and Tal Farlow lacked: phrasing. Listening to Joe pick every note is enough to make a horn player faint. After listening to most jazz guitarists, I get the urge to say, "That's nice, but what's your point?" They can play fast, complex lines, but none of it seems to have any purpose other than showing off. Wes was a master at phrasing and the use of space. He skillfully used single lines, octaves, and chords to get his point across. He carefully constructed coherent solos that always seemed to say something. Listen to No Blues on this album. Though Wes plays a long solo, each chorus is more exciting than the one before it. When I listen to Joe Pass, each chorus does not build on the one before it, and it all gets boring very quickly.
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Format: Audio CD
One of the most memorable events of my youth was in 1967, the year before Wes Montgomery died. I and another guitar player friend sat just feet from Wes in Washington DC's Bohemian Caverns club as he tore into number after number, in total command of his fabulous L-5 Gibson guitar. I even recall the first tune of the night: "I Could Write a Book." If I could revisit any one time and place in my life, that would be it. The Half Note album is another session on that order. Oh, how I wish I could have been there..and at Tsubo in San Francisco to hear him with Wynton Kelly and sax man Johnnie Griffin. Moments like those are meant to live forever. Thank God someone recorded it. Get this CD and dream of being in the audience. These moments in history only happen once.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Wes Montgomery's "Smokin' at the Half Note- Live" album is one of the best live jazz guitar albums ever made! Wes Montgomery had a gift for his clear expression of intricate melodies, along with a blend of interesting chord voicings, creative soloing ideas, and innovative techniques (such as his soloing in octaves, picking with his thumb, and amazing accuracy and dexterity), that have not been heard before or since.

His stirring performances of "No Blues" and "Four on Six," in particular, stand out as amazing examples of his innovation, creativity and outstanding jazz guitar technique.

If you are interested in hearing some of Wes' best studio work, check out "The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery"- one of the best jazz guitar albums of all time!

Thank you, Wes, for inspiring countless jazz guitarists, and music-lovers everywhere!
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Format: Audio CD
This album is most certainly one of the best ever recorded, in my opinion. Wes Montgomery is an incredible guitarist, and his performance on this album is exemplary. I would also like to point out that this album contains some of Wynton Kelly's best playing. His lines and bouncy time feel, and his empathy with Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb (which I consider to be probably the best rhythm section in history) are all top shelf and anyone who is interested in hard-swinging music and in Wynton Kelly should acquire this album post haste.
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