Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery
Recorded 1966 at Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Tracks 1 and 2 September 23, tracks 3, 5 and 6 on September 21
Tracks 1-5 original LP issue: "Jimmy & Wes The Dynamic Duo" Verve V6-8678
Track 6 original LP issue: Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz in the '60s Vol. 1:The Blues Verve V6-8677
Creed Taylor matched two of his most famous artists, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, on this session (Montgomery's last for Verve), and the results are incendiary - a near-ideal meeting of yin and yang. Smith comes at your throat with his big attacks and blues runs while Montgomery responds with rounder, smoother octaves and single notes that still convey much heat. They are an amazing pair, complementing each other, driving each other, using their bop and blues taproots to fuse together a sound. The romping, aggressive big band charts - Oliver Nelson at his best - on "Down by the Riverside" and "Night Train," and the pungently haunting chart for Gary McFarland's "13" (Death March)" still leave plenty of room for the soloists to stretch out. "James and Wes" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" include drummer Grady Tate and conguero Ray Barretto, with Smith's own feet working the organ pedals. The Verve Master Edition reissue also includes an alternate take of "O.G.D." with Tate and Barretto, a track previously surfacing on a long-gone Encyclopedia of Jazz anthology LP from the '60s - a neat bonus that makes this the preferred version.
All Music Guide
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Nelson had worked with each half of the duo before. He wrote the swaggering arrangement for Smith's "Walk on the Wild Side" and contributed to the organist's Bashin'(both Verve 1962). He wrote and conducted Montgomery's Goin' out of My Head (Verve, 1965), in which he seemed to plot the guitarist's future by featuring him more as a melodist than as a jamming improviser. By the mid-Sixties Nelson was one of jazz's most popular arrangers, and one of the busiest. Four days after he recorded the three big-band numbers here, he was in Los Angeles recording his Sound Pieces for Jazz Orchestra (for Impulse!). He too died at the height of his powers and popularity, in 1975.
There's no hint of tragedy in the bustling, upbeat music found here, not even in the eerily titled Gary McFarland composition 13 (Death March), which turns out to be neither eerie nor a march but a cheerful-sounding piece with a Latin rhythm. The album, beautifully recorded by engineer Rudy Van Gelder, opens with Nelson's strutting arrangement of Down by the Riverside. The familiar melody is virtually shouted by the reed section, which, punctuated by the brass, ends its phrases with an appealing upward slide. In the second chorus, the low brass states the theme while the trumpets shout up high, until they end in a chord that clangs like the sound of a traffic jam. Out of this extroverted opening comes Smith's dramatic entrance - he sounds both intimate and intense, as if he's desperately whispering a secret. Montgomery begins his solo with an effortlessly swinging phrase that is reminiscent of the best of Charlie Christian. Later he riffs in a hard-driving conversation with drummer Grady Tate, an unsung hero of this date.
Nelson also wrote the gently loping arrangement for "Night Train", a tune originally titled Happy-Go-Lucky Local, which was first heard as part of Duke Ellington's Deep South Suite (1946) and that in 1951 became a hit in tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest's version. Here Montgomery has the first solo - he enters with a patterned phrase as neat as a newly pressed suit - and Smith follows with a tumbling phrase that he builds on later. Nelson's final contribution is his arrangement of "13 (Death March)", which he scored for alto flutes.
The other numbers are small-band jams. James and Wes is a playful blues that finds Smith quoting a song about another dynamic pair, "Frankie and Johnny"; he then scurries away from the quote in doubletime, as if abashed by his own humor. Baby, It's Cold Outside was familiar to jazz fans at the time of the recording, from the seductive version that Ray Charles and Betty Carter recorded in 1961. Here, the song is considerably less insinuating and decidedly more robust: If this version suggests romance, it's a romance between exuberant, apple-cheeked lovers who probably like the cold, after all. The arrangement is marked by the sleigh bells that cheerfully accompany the two statements of the melody.
It's best not to be lulled by the goodtime atmosphere of this recording. These two are master musicians, master improvis-ers who inspire each other. Smith uses his accompanying chords to prod Montgomery during the guitarist's solos, and Montgomery responds to Smith - and to the comparable goads of Grady Tate. Now that recordings are being made by musicians who enter antiseptic studios in different cities, it's worthwhile to keep in mind how live this music sounds, how professional and yet unexpected. The Dynamic Duo is in the best sense a collaboration. Neither Jimmy Smith nor Wes Montgomery would ever sound exactly this way again.
- Michael Ullman, January 1997
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Hi, Old Aware One! Swingcerely yours, Holmes Daddy-0 Daylie your musical host who loves you most-Leaping at this opportunity to praise long and loud. Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery and "the monster" Oliver Nelson. Three (Jazz) giants, favorites of the grits and gravy crowd. Sixty-seven marks our 18th year of playing jazz in Chicago radio. This has offered me the opportunity to mellow with an unbiased appreciation of good, swinging sounds. As you ear-check this masterful piece, you instantly realize and recognize these conveyors are in the same bag and they've got their bag together. "Let me pull your coat." This album offers one thing. Three soul brothers "cooking." What are the ingredients necessary to produce a hit album? Take a couple of stars, add hand-picked musicians whose specialty is embellishing, and a prolific arranger who?-Yes!-answers to the name Oliver Nelson.
Side 1. Down By The Riverside serves as a launching pad. but this is only a preface into certainly what I deem a piece of the master's art. Jimmy Smith attacks his organ, and Wes controls the guitar strings as if he invented them.
Night Train. You're aboard a train speeding to destination - Utopia. The brass section reaches its summit so successfully Wes's guitar escorts you bouncing, spinning and swingingly down a never-ending track. Night Train does not arrive to ultimate victory until the passengers are informed that they are aboard the J. and W. Express.
This album is constructed by a titan and played by titans, so you thoroughly relish your jaunt alongside J.S. and Wes ON (Oliver Nelson), a journey to perfection.
Side 2. These stars ignite on the first set James and Wes slow deliberate sounds ending in a flourish. You get the impression that Jim and Wes are putting the pot on so that they can really "cook" in the ensuing tracks. You find yourself smiling as you listen to these "marksmen" burning. Oliver Nelson has begun this album by writing a tempo that is comfort-able and somewhat mellow, allowing his manipulators to merge together in a gradual slow, tasty, swinging process. No sooner have you reached this conclusion than you find yourself caught up in a more vibrant rhythm, embraced in 73 (Death March). You are running, panting and attempting to catch your breath but the "monster" (Oliver Nelson) won't let you. Jimmy's performance is particularly noteworthy because he makes you run (not march) just as he is doing across his Hammond Organ keyboard, aided and abetted by the prowess of the talented, amazing, blazing and creative guitar phrasing of Wes Montgomery. Suddenly everything is cool, it's near freezing, and Wes Montgomery's guitar operation tells you just that! He says, with his unique style, that it's "chilly Millie" so put on that overcoat, Baby. It's Cold Outside.