THAT CAT CAN PLAY
Jazz radio hosts are remembering the great Wes Montgomery on this the 90th anniversary of his birth. Even though I'm a Caucasian with no musical talent I feel a kinship to the guitarist from Indianapolis.
First, there is the hometown connection. Then several years ago I worked with Wes's brother, Buddy, a great player in his own right in trying to develop a documentary on Wes. We couldn't get a buyer, but the time working with Buddy and hearing tales was a thrill.
I got hooked on jazz when I was a high school kid who'd listen to rhythm & blues and jazz radio. I had to be in the minority of whites, especially young whites, who listened.
I was working in the mid-town area at an FM station known for it's classical and semi classical play list, but I'd listen to a small station that played jazz. My station was in the heart of the city, in an old hotel that at the time was known as a place for hookers, working out of the marbled bar and lobby. The jazz station was further east, in what had become an industrial neighborhood, near the giant RCA plant. I'd drive through that area on the way into my Saturday and Sunday shifts, from noon to 1:00 AM. One day I had filled in for a regular staff guy and on the way home decided to stop in at the jazz station.
I knew the Dearborn Hotel, because I played in a basketball league that played in the famous little gym there. I punched the elevator button for the top floor and passed through levels of aroma. There was stale smoke smell of the lobby, the gym smell, food and what I call old hotel aromas. There was a buzzer on a door at the end of the hall that displayed the station's call letters. I was about to leave after a couple of punches when a black man with slicked backed hair, a goatee and wearing a white shirt and tie asked "What can I do for you sunny?"
I explained my mission, told him of my love of jazz and he bid me entry into a small office, stacked full of records and a couple of desks cluttered with broadcast logs-records of the music and commercials played. We sat in the studio over looking the neighborhood, toward the downtown and chatted. He was a jazz player too. He'd played with Wes and the great JJ Johnson among others.
I think he was amazed to count among his listeners a white suburban high school boy, but he seemed thrilled just to know the music "crossed over."
I was struck by a comment about Wes.
"He is one fine negro gentleman, and man that cat can play."
That was back in the early 60's. From that era here are a couple of videos of the great Wes Montgomery.
The first tune is an original-Jingles
Here he is with a couple of other legends.
Man, that cat can play!PACIFIC BLUFF ART
See you down the trail.