If you asked a cross section of contemporary jazz guitarists to pick essential jazz guitar albums, this is one that they could all agree on. The Incredible Jazz Guitar is not only the album that announced to the jazz world that Wes Montgomery had arrived as a major force to be reckoned with, it is the record that caused many established players to re-evaluate their technique.
With many much-copied innovators, it can sometimes be hard to appreciate what made them so unique in the first place. This is not the case with Wes Montgomery. His choice to use the thumb rather than a plectrum to play notes was un-orthodox, and has never been matched let alone bettered. He was the first guitarist to play entire choruses in octaves, and his influential strategy of constructing a solo by starting with single notes, then progressing to octaves, and finally improvising with block chords is in full evidence here.
The choice of material is first rate. The album opens with a fast version of the Sonny Rollins composition Airegin, and includes a very beautiful version of Polkadots & Moonbeams played in octaves. In addition, Wes introduces some of his finest originals including the catchy Four On Six and the jazz waltz West Coast Blues. Listen out for the moment in his solo on Mr. Walker where he spontaneously comes up with a harmonic phrase later utilised in the Bond films.
With no let up in quality for 44 minutes, and consistently excellent support from Tommy Flanagan on piano, and two of the Heath brothers on bass and drums, how could you not purchase this pivotal album?