|Jimmy and Wes - The Dynamic Duo|
Well, you have it right here my friends, thanks to my 23rd track of the day.
Let's get the negatives for many listeners out of the way first of all - it is an instrumental jazz version of a Gospel standard.
But not a normal jazz cover - the biggest, brassiest, most energetic recording I think I own.
Only one video out there of this version - and thanks to YouTube cutting the time down to 10 minutes per video - we just about fit it all in....
Let's start with that big. big intro shall we? A slow build up with 2 horns to about the 20 second mark, where other horns come in and start shouting "What about me!!!" from the left field, messing things up, double timing it to the first breakdown at about 45s mark. Then they start pumping what we presume is the main piece - BUT NO! They keep growing and blasting it up until 1:04 when they explode and fade away for Jimmy Smith's organ to come in to silence them.
Wow. I own great punk tunes that last less than that introduction. All of those horns grooving away at full pelt from the word 'go'. You know Beyonce has heard that and wondered "How come the horn sections in my tunes are so weak in comparison?" Nothing beats a big band intro, and that to my mind is the best there is. There is no piece of music, in my mind, that a great brass section cannot enhance.
And that is thanks to somebody not in the title - the great Oliver Nelson (of 'Stolen Moments' fame) arranged this beauty. In the jazz world there are a lot of mediocre arrangers, and luckily for these two, they managed to get hold of one of the best.
The horns then cast a refrain - marking what should be a mark to change lead instrument - but Jimmy isn't finished yet. In an understanding and generous way Wes lets him off again. Why? Because Mr Smith is cooking with gas today and nobody would dare stop him - he is on fire with such energised lines until at 4:50 he finally lets out a double stop to signal in the guitarist - and almost catches him off guard.
Wes then takes the lead - in his own way, less aggressive, far more melodic, great use of repeating lines for emphasis, yet still finding original lines to play and in a variety of styles - great sections of slides, slips and a swathe of just playing fast staccato 'block chords as melody' with such abandon that the drummer joins him.
The next 2 minutes brings the horns back in at full pelt, like a roaring wild beast and then reverting to the original refrain.
You know that at the end of the session that everyone involved was exhausted, but laughing. So who were these two chaps, these two virtuosos of their instruments?
Well, without delving into Wikipedia or the likes too much, let me say this - you have heard them before.
Jimmy Smith you have heard sampled in Beastie Boys tracks (Root Down) and as in the theme music to The Money Programme on Radio 4.... More than that he more or less invented the sound of Acid Jazz.
Wes Montgomery was in history probably the 'third' most important guitarist of all time. And by third I mean, before him came only Django and Charlie Christian. His style of using repeated solo runs, octaves and block chord melodies inspired just about everyone. If you like Hendrix, you like Wes - simple. "The Wind Cries Mary" is so in the style of Montgomery, if he had released it nowadays, he would have been sued.
As for the song. Until today, I never realised it was a standard. A well known one at that. It came on the iPod as I was driving an aged relative to see even older relatives, and it was the first piece in years of putting up with my music that she recognised. I was stunned, so I turned to iTunes when I got home and found, luckily, this beauty as an example of what the original should sound like - ladies and gentlemen - Sister Rosetta Tharpe....
Now we will talk about Sister Rosetta in the future no doubt - more soul than an Atlantic fishing trawler and what a great sight - a middle aged black woman singing and playing an all-white Gibson SG Custom years before Chuck Berry even picked up a guitar.
Back to why this track covered by Jimmy and Wes is so good:
Because they are enjoying themselves, unburdened by fame and expectations, trading riffs and having a great time in each others company.
Luckily we can share that joy thanks to this fantastic recording.