A Wes Montgomery Bootleg Gone Legit, Among Other Jazz Treasures in Take Five

Nov 26, 2017

Holiday shopping, or a personal splurge? Here are five good reasons to spend your money.

Wes Montgomery, “Full House”

The incomparable guitarist Wes Montgomery hated to fly, which explains why he only ever took one trip overseas, in 1965. Among the ample documentation of this tour is a revered bootleg from his only concert in Paris, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Now, after some conscientious effort, Resonance Records has issued the first sanctioned version of this album, mastered from the original tapes. 

In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording was released on Black Friday, as a limited-edition double LP. (It will be available on CD and in digital formats on Jan. 26.) The album captures Montgomery in absolute peak form, leading a quartet with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace. The tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, who had moved to Paris, joins them on several tracks — including this locomotive version of “Full House.” Griffin knew this tune well, having recorded it live with a different Montgomery band several years earlier (as the title track for an album on Riverside). Listen here for how canny he is, following a bravura Wes solo with a smeary, laconic entrance, before ratcheting up the heat. 

Greg Saunier, Mary Halvorson and Ron Miles, “Jonathan”

If your holiday shopping list includes an adventurous listener, you should consider a subscription to Sound American, the online journal edited by trumpeter Nate Wooley. The next issue, due out on Dec. 5, will come with New American Songbooks Volume 1, a limited-edition covers LP by drummer Greg Saunier, guitarist Mary Halvorson and cornetist Ron Miles.

The album is a winner, converging several idiosyncratic voices in chamber interplay. The track above is Halvorson’s arrangement of “Jonathan,” a recent invention by singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. You might expect this material to fall most comfortably in the wheelhouse of Saunier, whose main gig is with the art-rock band Deerhoof. But his drumming on the track evokes Paul Motian more than any rock antecedent, and there’s a Don Cherry bite to Miles’ improvising. The guitar playing, meanwhile, echoes the lonesome ferocity in Apple’s pianism, with a gangly grace.

Jason Moran, “Creed”

Some of the best music to surface in 2017 can be found on Jason Moran’s Bandcamp page, the sole distribution channel (so far) for his albums on Yes Records. 

This month he released MASS {Howl, eon} — a chronicle of his recent accompaniment to a site-specific work by the painter Julie Mehretu, commissioned by SFMOMA. Recorded in a church in Harlem as Mehretu worked on her canvases, the album is an experimental soundtrack, long on atmosphere and texture. It features Moran on piano, Fender Rhodes and percussion; Graham Haynes on cornet and electronics; and Jamire Williams on drums. “Creed,” which Moran composed with his wife, Alicia Hall Moran, superimposes an ethereal horn part over a low rumble of rhythm.

Dave Bennett, “13 Fingers”

A clarinetist with a toehold in rockabilly and classic pop as well as throwback swing, Dave Bennett has a solid showcase in Blood Moon, his second album on Mack Avenue. The album was produced by veteran composer-arranger Shelly Berger, who also had a hand in writing this track, “13 Fingers.” It’s a breakneck number that underscores Bennett’s known affinity for Benny Goodman’s small-group music, along with the seamless accord he has with pianist Dave Restivo. 

Gregory Porter, “Mona Lisa” and “L-O-V-E”

Finally, something you might have missed in the buildup to Thanksgiving: Gregory Porter’s featured appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performing two of the standout tracks from his new album, Nat King Cole & Me. He begins with a slow, stately “Mona Lisa,” backed only by pianist Chip Crawford. Then, counting off a jauntier tempo, he sidles into “L-O-V-E,” bringing some heft to the song’s flirtations while leaving room in the arrangement for a smart tenor saxophone solo, by Tivon Pennicott. (Here again is my review of the album, out now on Blue Note.)