- Wes Montgomery’s superb posthumous release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
- The stereo sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
- Assembled using additional material from the live Smokin’ at the Half Note sessions, this collection served as the perfect memorial to Montgomery’s musical genius
- Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
- “… what you will hear, bathed in winds or not, is prime, mature Wes Montgomery stretching out in full, with unbelievable confidence in his ear and technique at all times…”
This vintage Verve pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in New York City’s Half Note Club with this superb quartet, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Willow Weep For Me have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.
Claus Ogerman’s Musicians Need This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on Willow Weep For Me
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitar, piano and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Wes Montgomery – guitar
Wynton Kelly – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Jimmy Cobb – drums
Claus Ogerman – orchestral arrangements
Overall Sonic Grade:
Side One – A+++
Side Two – A+++
1) Mint Minus Minus
2) Mint Minus Minus
Willow Weep For Me
Portrait Of Jennie
Surrey With A Fringe On Top
Oh! You Crazy Moon
Four On Six
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Shortly after Wes Montgomery’s shockingly early death, Verve rummaged around in the vaults and came up with some additional tapes from the live Smokin’ at the Half Note sessions with the Kind of Blue rhythm section, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. And then after-the-fact producer Esmond Edwards did a controversial thing — he commissioned Claus Ogerman, the arranger on Tequila, to overdub wind and brass arrangements on four tracks: the title tune, “Portrait of Jennie,” “Oh! You Crazy Moon,” and “Misty.”
The critics promptly pounced on Verve, NARAS responded by giving the album a Grammy, and the whole issue became moot when subsequent reissues of the four tracks erased the new backing charts. Yet on the whole, Ogerman did a good job; his arrangements are subtle and, in the case of the title track, swinging, with the flutes adding effective responses within Montgomery’s statements of the theme. “Impressions,” oddly enough, was left alone — perhaps due to its lightning tempo — and this classic solo has since been reissued many times as the prime example of Montgomery in his Verve period.
“Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and an alternate take of “Four on Six” (with a bad edit cutting off Kelly’s solo in mid-flight) are also free of orchestrations. In any case, what you will hear, bathed in winds or not, is prime, mature Wes Montgomery stretching out in full, with unbelievable confidence in his ear and technique at all times, experimenting now and then with mild electronic effects devices.