Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dutch Treat

Wes Montgomery plays in Holland sometime in the sixties by the look of it.

The smile was genuine. Wes Montgomery had a perfection in demeanor for his job. Serious and genial in equal measure.

I think it came for his background. He was a real person. Too many entertainers are born to the ermine of prodigy treatment almost from birth. Hothouse flowers. Wes Montgomery was more of a florist delivery van driver than a hothouse flower.

Wes played with his thumb instead of a plectrum or his fingertips. I've heard that he started playing like that because he worked as a machinist all day to support his family, and had to practice in the middle of the night, and strumming with his thumb was quieter and allowed his wife to sleep. One's eye pauses over such minutiae when considering a man's life, and wonders if you've discovered something sublime abroad in this world of pain and heartache.

To be successful after toiling in obscurity for a long time is a remarkable thing. It makes people smile to be popular among strangers instead of sneering at their publicist and audience alike while demanding your M&Ms get sorted. You are a fully-formed human person before the world gets its chance to deform you with celebrity.

It's almost a half-hour of good music, with the end the best of all. Wes goes over what he's playing with a bunch of strangers who are game and capable but not hip. This is often what the highest levels of music instruction look like: the chance to play with someone like Wes Montgomery, and talk to him. Wes already offered the highest level of instruction on being a proper male human being with his machinist thumb.

Interview with Wes Montgomery in Guitar Player Magazine. He passed away in 1968.


T.K. Tortch said...

Ah his guitar has got that heart-shaped inlay. Supposedly he had it installed because otherwise he would gradually wear a hole through the wood where he rested his right hand-fingers. The wear pattern looked heart-shaped, so the inlay followed the pattern. . . .

Cameron said...

Very satisfying. Bonus points to the bassist for being named "Ruud."