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ALBUM REVIEW: "In The Beginning" 

Wes Montgomery

"In The Beginning"

Resonance Records

By the time Wes Montgomery died of a heart attack in 1968, at the young age of 43, he was widely regarded as the best guitarist in jazz. But by then his records were weighed down by covers of pop songs backed by overwrought strings. His best albums were those recorded in the late-1950's and early-1960's. Now a great new two-CD set "In The Beginning" takes us even further back with 26 never-before-released tracks from the late-1940's and early to mid-1950's. It includes a 55-page booklet with essays by Ashley Kahn, Quincy Jones (who produced a 1955 session), and Pete Townshend.

Many of these track, recorded in small clubs in Indianapolis, feature a band consisting of Montgomery, his brothers Buddy (piano) and Monk Montgomery (bass), and forgotten greats Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson (sax) and Sonny Johnson (drums). There are also soulful vocals by Debbie Andrews and others. The repertoire includes Montgomery originals along with a wealth of standards including "Django," "Caravan," "After You've Gone," "All the Things You Are," "A Night in Tunisia," and an especially spirited "Love for Sale." You can hear the excitement in the crowd at the Turf Club reacting to a fully-formed Montgomery and the exuberance of this great local band. They were the first to know — this is a thrilling collection.

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