Rhonda Hamilton interviewed guitarist Russell Malone yesterday.
Fortunately, Russell didn't share any of his really colorful jokes with our audience. If he did, the FCC would level some hefty fines.
He did, however, talk at length about his experience with Jimmy Smith. When Russell met the organist in Atlanta, he asked to sit in with the band. Russell played everything he knew, trying to impress Jimmy. The audience went wild. Then, Smith called a ballad, "Laura," and Russell did not know the song. That humbling experience led to an all-night lesson in music in Jimmy Smith's hotel room. Smith had played with some great guitarists, notably Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. He taught Russell Malone a valuable lesson - to put himself into the music, rather than trying to emulate those guys. Listen to the interview.
You may know guitarist Kevin Eubanks from the Tonight Show Band. Each weeknight, he sits in front of the band, acting as a comic foil for host Jay Leno. Kevin has actually been the music director for the show since 1995, when Branford Marsalis departed. Eubanks has been on the show since 1992. He even penned the show's closing theme song, "Kevin's Country."
Kevin Eubanks is a jazz musician by calling. In fact, music is genetically programmed into the Eubanks clan. Just ask trombonist Robin Eubanks, who is currently blazing trails with the SF Jazz Collective touring ensemble.
Check out Kevin on "Blues for Wes," a duet tribute to one of the heroes of jazz guitar, Wes Montgomery. This selection is a duet recording with bassist Cameron Brown. WBGO recorded it in 1983 at the Jazz Forum in New York. Johnny Carson was still the host of the Tonight Show. Kevin Eubanks was starting a solo career. His television career was yet to come.
Happy birthday today to Wes Montgomery. Any guitarist worth his or her salt has at least ONE album from Wes Montgomery, the master non-plectrist. No, I didn't invent that word, plectrist. It's actually derived from plectrum, which is what guitar nerds and speakers of dead languages call a pick. [Incidentally, another great guitarist, Billy Bauer, made a record in the 1950s called Plectrist. But I'm getting even more off topic here.]
Wes Montgomery, however, was a non-plectrist. He didn't use an external tool to pick the strings. He used his thumb. That's what makes Wes Montgomery's sound so identifiable - warm, casual, and about as 'natural' as an amplified electric instrument can sound without using algorithms or superhero powers.
Check out this video of Wes playing Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." About two minutes in, you'll see the closeup on his hand. Not plectacular, but spectacular. - Josh
PS - Anyone have a favorite Wes Montgomery album, song, or solo?