Chronology: Buddy Montgomery, a Little Brother Like No Other

Great individualists in jazz usually represent a School of One—musicians with such private and idiosyncratic identities that they hover in a liminal state, anchored within the custom but additionally barely to the aspect of it. A couple of examples: trumpeter Frankie Newton, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and pianists Erroll Garner and Thelonious Monk. 

One extra: pianist, vibraphonist, composer, and arranger Charles “Buddy” Montgomery. There is no one like him.

The youngest of the three gifted Montgomery brothers who got here swinging out of Indianapolis, Buddy (1930-2009) by no means turned a family identify like his brother Wes, among the many most influential guitarists in jazz historical past. Buddy additionally defies thumbnail description like his brother Monk, a pioneer of the electrical bass. Barely namechecked in jazz histories, Buddy lived a wealthy life throughout the marrow of the music.

He carried out and recorded together with his brothers. He performed vibes and organized practically all the fabric for the underrated West Coast cooperative the Mastersounds (1957-60). He spent a sizzling minute taking part in vibes with the Miles Davis Sextet in early 1960. He made vital contributions to the scenes within the Bay Area, New York, and Milwaukee, the place he lived for 15 years starting in 1969 and mentored youthful musicians like pianist David Hazeltine and trumpeter Brian Lynch. 

More self-effacing than his expertise required, Montgomery recorded simply 9 dates as a bandleader—10 when you depend 1958’s The Montgomery Brothers and Five Others (World Pacific), which options 4 of his originals, all his preparations, and liner-note credit score because the chief. His closing six recordings, concentrated between 1986 and 2000, raised his profile a bit as a sui generis musician who solid his personal path by the fashionable mainstream. 

Montgomery rewards deep listening. Not as a result of his music is opaque. To the opposite, his soulful expression funnels ever-fresh lyricism and blues-scented oratory right into a common-man contact that elevates the spirit. But beneath the floor élan lurks a wealth of organizational element, artistic orchestration, formal ingenuity, and spontaneous harmonic and rhythmic invention.

I can’t consider one other composer who may need written the beguiling “1,000 Rainbows” on Here Again (Sharp Nine, 1997), a nice introduction to Montgomery’s artwork. He leads a trio with bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Ray Appleton, plus Wilson Corniel, Jr.’s congas on two tracks. Everyone writes bass ostinatos on Latin songs, proper? But Montgomery’s impressed line on “1,000 Rainbows” delivers an insinuating rhythmic basis that additionally features as melodic counterpoint to the wistful theme and concord. His savvy use of house contributes to a considered solo that sustains the bewitching temper. The evocative efficiency lingers just like the reminiscence of an alluring Burgundy. 

Even Montgomery’s blues constructions are unpredictable. A 24-bar type, “Aki’s Blues” employs a syncopated motto, rhythm-section hits, aromatic harmonic twists, and melody delivered in vibrant chords and single notes. His sly voicings convey the class of an old-school hipster. Montgomery’s ingenious solo piano strains pop with vibes-like ping and unfastened rhythm; his notes circle all sides of the beat.

“There’s a unique sprightliness—flittering runs when he plays a flurry of notes,” says pianist Michael Weiss, who grew near Montgomery after they labored collectively within the Eighties and ’90s. “He also mixes simple and complex harmonic choices in a personal way. He can make a triad sound profound by what he puts on either side of it.”

Given Montgomery’s fondness for astute harmonic tailoring, it’s astounding that, like Wes, he didn’t learn or write music. He might spell notes in chords, however he taught musicians his music by ear or recorded songs on cassette for others to transcribe. Still, Buddy’s refined musical constructions show that, additionally like Wes, he was no primitive. 

Montgomery rewards deep listening. Beneath the floor élan lurks a wealth of organizational element, artistic orchestration, formal ingenuity, and spontaneous harmonic and rhythmic invention.

Buddy didn’t come out of nowhere. His compositional aesthetic grew from exactly plotted and orchestrated items by Horace Silver like “Ecaroh,” “Metamorphosis,” and “Enchantment.” Montgomery’s adventurous “Budini” suggests Silver on steroids. It’s a scampering, through-composed Latin steeplechase in C minor with dazzling syncopation, interlocking bass and melody strains, and a number of sections of irregular size (30 and 34 bars). Montgomery recorded it with Ron Carter and Ralph Penland in 1988 on So Why Not? (Landmark).

Montgomery’s piano influences included Erroll Garner, Bud Powell, Nat Cole, Art Tatum, and Indianapolis legend Erroll Grandy. On vibes he took inspiration from Milt Jackson, although Montgomery’s strategy to that instrument was simply as singular as his piano taking part in. The content material of his improvisations is equivalent on each devices. Montgomery’s articulation is extra percussive than Jackson’s, in all probability the results of tougher mallets, and the shimmer of his sound suggests a barely quicker tremolo pace than Jackson. 

He performed vibes completely with the Mastersounds, whose instrumentation mirrored the Modern Jazz Quartet however with a extra freewheeling perspective. Montgomery runs away with Jazz Showcase: Introducing the Mastersounds (World Pacific, 1957). On “Old Devil Moon,” he’s swinging so energetically that he overwhelms his bandmates. The ersatz Oriental tropes within the overstuffed association have dated, however the wild chord substitutions within the second ending and mambo interludes through the blowing stay superior. The built-in quartet’s 50-50 racial cut up was uncommon for the period, with Buddy and Monk paired with white musicians, pianist Richie Crabtree and drummer Benny Barth. 

Montgomery held his personal with Miles Davis. Via YouTube, a uncommon tape of “So What” from San Francisco in March 1960 finds him soloing aggressively after an incendiary John Coltrane. Montgomery was slated to tour Europe that spring with Davis however backed out on the eleventh hour as a result of he was afraid to fly. Would a extra prolonged stint with Davis have pushed Montgomery to wider visibility and acclaim? Probably. Famous or not, nevertheless, he advised his personal tales in his personal approach. 

Further Listening

The Two-Sided Album (Milestone)
Never reissued, this distinctive 1968 LP stays Montgomery’s greatest all-around recording, showcasing his piano, vibes, composing, and arranging. A younger Billy Hart anchors two potent bands.

Ties of Love (Landmark)
Strong materials, an infectious spirit, and bicoastal bands recorded in 1986 with Fathead Newman, Eddie Harris, Ron Carter, and many others., and many others. 

Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Fifteen (Concord)
Spectacular solo piano recorded in 1991. Montgomery interprets requirements with wit, knowledge, and romance.


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