The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery
Nelson Riveros played a few Wes Montgomery tunes recently – and decided, what the hey, why not, erm not only jazz them up (hard to do, given they’re jazz tunes already) but add a little Latin tinge. So The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery was born – and it’s an easy birth with smooth delivery. Riveros is taking good care of the babies – his own fluid soloing is calm and in keeping with Wes’ funkier side. The main different is the line-up, in particular the work of percussionist Jonathan Gomez and pianist Hector Martignon, for they are the ones to truly stamp down the sound, to add the flourishes of flavour. But they’re ably assisted by bassist Andy McKee and drummer Mark Walker – it’s a brilliant team effort in fact.
Grabbing widely from the Montgomery catalogue – and adding funky-but-chilled original Facing Wes and a soul-jazz samba called Nelson’s Groove – there is great skill on display here at every step, but it’s not merely a clinical exercise; so much heart and soul and fire is needed to drive the Latin arrangements, so that’s very easy to hear and feel. Opener, Road Song, is a sublime reading. Four on Six is here set as a tumbao with McKee’s bass in the passenger seat and navigating as Nelson negotiates the turns and makes the decisions of when to floor it and when to hold back just a little.
We are missing the very tender ballad-side of Montgomery, but again that’s somewhat explained away by the title and concept. And then, closing track, Leila, gives us the taste of that style to go out on. Riveros solo on guitar guides a gorgeous melody, supple and lithe.
This might not be your favourite take on Montgomery if you’re already a fan but it should at least be of some interest. And if Latin jazz is your thing then there’s a lot to love here – particularly how soulful this is. As an introduction to Wes Montgomery you could absolutely do a lot worse than this. This might be the spark to light that fire for you.