Blindfold Test: Wes Montgomery


Montgomery praised guitarist Joe Pass for his tone and phrasing.

(Photo: DownBeat Archives)

Editor’s Note: This classic Blindfold Test by the celebrated jazz journalist Leonard Feather (1914–’94) features the Hall of Fame guitarist Wes Montgomery (1923–’68) — who proved to be a tough grader in the June 29, 1967, edition of DownBeat.

George Benson

“Benny’s Back” (The George Benson Cookbook, Columbia) Bennie Green, trombone; Lonnie Smith, organ; Benson, guitar, composer; no bass listed.

It has a fresh sound. … The organ seems like it’s in the background — doesn’t seem like it’s up front with the other instruments. Seems like it lost a little bit of the fire at the end. But naturally, the guitar solo was out of sight! It sounded like George Benson. I think it rates three stars, anyway.

Sounded like Al Grey on trombone, but I’m not sure. The group sounded like it was baritone, organ, trombone, guitar, electric bass and drums. You know, I think the electric bass is getting more popular; it’s moving out of rock ’n’ roll into jazz.

I liked the line very much — it sounded fresh, excited. Sounded like Georgie Benson’s line — probably his tune.

Roland Kirk

“Making Love Afterhours” (Here Comes The Whistleman, Atlantic) Kirk, flute, tenor saxophone, manzello and strich.

Wow! First it sounded like Roland Kirk and his group. … I don’t know the personnel.

It’s a funny thing about Roland Kirk — if you had two other men, with two horns identical like he’s playing, and let the two men play the same parts he’s playing, and let him play the two horns, it’s still a different sound. It’s a different approach even with the horns. It’s amazing.

Anyway, I see he’s got him one to go for the pop market. It’s good, very good, but I think if you’re speaking of jazz, you have to rate it as such, and it’s not that jazzy. So, therefore, I’ll have to mark him down for three stars. It’s a good track, but it appeals to the current market, which I’ll give him credit for doing. He’s still getting into it, even in that direction.

Joe Pass

“Sometime Ago” (Simplicity, World Pacific) Pass, guitar; S. Mihanovich, composer.

I don’t know who that was … but it was beautiful. In fact, I couldn’t concentrate on who it might be because of listening to it! It’s beautiful. I like all of it — I like the lines, I like the phrases, the guitar player has beautiful tone, he phrases good, and everybody’s sort of, like, together. It’s really together; I’d give that four stars right away.

Grant Green

“Brazil” (The Latin Bit, Blue Note) Green, guitar; Johnnie Acea, piano.

Of course, from the style, right away I can tell it was Grant Green. … The piano player sounded like, had a taste of, Horace Parlan — I’m not sure. I don’t know the other fellows. The fire the tune started out with — I don’t think the background came up to it. It was lacking fire in the middle section — I mean to compete with Grant. Other than that, they picked a nice tune, nice rhythm for it, so I would give it three stars.

Stanley Turrentine

“A Taste Of Honey” (Jay Ride, Blue Note) Turrentine, tenor saxophone; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Oliver Nelson, arranger, conductor.

Sounded like Stanley Turrentine with an Oliver Nelson arrangement to me — which is the current thing that’s happening now, that’s begun to be the bag: big band and soloist. And for that, I think it’s a good arrangement. Nice direction, nice rhythm, exciting.

It’s on the blues side, though. For that, I’d take Joe Henderson. I dig his kind of bag because it’s in the more jazz-er bag. Stanley’s in the sort of more blues-er type bag, which you can understand — it’s selling records.

I have to give them three stars for effort. … Sill sounded like Oliver Nelson.

Gabor Szabo

“Walk On By” (Gypsy ’66, Impulse!) Szabo, guitars.

That’s Gabor Szabo … I can tell right away. He’s got a unique style. It’s different. … Of course, I didn’t think that particular number was too exciting. I’ve heard him a lot more exciting. The rhythm section didn’t have enough bottom in it, and it seemed like there was drive missing.

For the soloist, Gabor, I would give him three stars, maybe three-and-a-half, but I would put down two for this particular side. The tune? Yeah! “Walk On By.”

Howard Roberts

“Cute” (Something’s Cookin’, Capitol) Roberts, guitar, arranger; Jack Marshall, co-arranger.

I think that was Howard Roberts on guitar. Very good arrangement. I don’t know who the arranger was, but it sounded good — just wasn’t long enough. The arrangement has a point of building up, like it’s going to stretch out, but it doesn’t. That was a nice cut, very nice cut. I think it deserves four stars.

How could I tell it was Howard Roberts? By the runs he makes. He makes a lot of clean runs. Not only because they’re clean, but they have a little different texture. And he sort of mixes it up: He’ll play a subtle line, then the next line will be a double line, come back to the subtle line, then he’ll mix the chords next. It’s a nice pattern.

Leonard Feather: Can you think of any albums you’d give five stars to?

Wes Montgomery: Well, I’ve heard a couple of things, but I don’t know what the names of the albums are or the artists on them. That’s pretty weird — can’t think of any five-star records!

Oh, this new thing by Miles, Miles Smiles? Now that’s a beautiful thing. He’s beginning to change his things all the time, but he hasn’t gone all out, and Wayne Shorter’s playing a little different. … It’s nice. Joe Henderson’s got a new thing I think would be five stars, too. I think it’s Mode For Joe — he and McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Richard Davis. DB

The “Blindfold Test” is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to discuss and identify the music and musicians who performed on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune using a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test.

  • Herb_Alpert_-_Press_Photo_01_%28credit_Dewey_Nicks%29_copy.jpg

    “I like to just click on songs that touched me and see if I could do them in a personal way — especially if it’s a well-known song,” Alpert said about selecting material for his new album.

  • Les_McCann_by_C_Andrew_Hovan_copy.jpg

    McCann’s deep roots in gospel and the blues gave his music a gritty, earthy quality and a large supply of soulful licks.

  • 1_Black_Men_of_Labor_Second_Line_Parade_copy.jpg

    The Black Men of Labor Club leads a second line parade, from the documentary City of a Million Dreams.

  • image002_copy.jpg

    ​The Blue Note Quintet includes Gerald Clayton, Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross, Kendrick Scott and Matt Brewer. The all-star collective embarks on a North American tour this month.

  • 24_Emmet_Cohen_GABRIELAGABRIELAA_copy_2.JPG

    Emmet Cohen, right, with one of his heroes, Houston Person.