Craft Recordings honors the inimitable Wes Montgomery on his centennial with an expanded edition of his classic 1962 LP, Full House. Captured at Berkeley, CA’s Tsubo coffee house, the album marks the influential jazz guitarist’s sole live session for Riverside Records and features stellar performances by all, including tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Presented as The Complete Full House Recordings, this brand-new collection has been remastered from the original analog tapes by Joe Tarantino, with lacquers cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. Pressed on 180-gram vinyl at Germany’s Optimal Media, the 3-LP set is housed in a gatefold jacket, complete with new liner notes by journalist and author Bill Milkowski (Downbeat, Jazziz, Guitar Player). An exclusive new Riverside Records T-Shirt is also available to order at CraftRecordings.com alongside the album.
Set for release on November 10th and available for pre-order today, The Complete Full House Recordings can also be found on 2-CD as well as in 24/192 hi-res and standard digital. Rounding out all formats is a variety of alternate takes and outtakes, including two previously unreleased performances: an alternate take of Montgomery’s “S.O.S.” as well as the complete unedited master take of “Full House,” featuring Montgomery’s originally played (and previously replaced) guitar solo restored.
One of jazz music’s most influential and innovative guitarists, Wes Montgomery (1923–1968) was revered for his warm, soulful tone and his unique approach to his instrument. Eschewing the standard guitar picks, the self-taught musician opted to pluck the guitar strings with the side of his thumb, while his extensive use of parallel octaves contributed to his distinctive sound. It was a technique that would not only be adopted by other jazz artists but also by many of the rising rock guitarists of the day.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Montgomery got his big break with Lionel Hampton, joining the legendary vibraphonist’s big band in 1948 before partnering with his brothers, vibraphonist/pianist Buddy and bassist Monk, with whom he performed as The Mastersounds or The Montgomery Brothers. At the end of the decade, the guitarist embarked on his prolific career as a leader, signing to the legendary jazz label, Riverside Records, and releasing his debut, A Dynamic New Sound: Guitar/Organ/Drums, in 1959. Yet, while Montgomery certainly wowed his contemporaries in the studio, it was often felt that the musician was at his best during club performances. And so, in 1962, Riverside’s founder and producer, Orrin Keepnews, sought to capture that magic, booking an evening at Berkeley’s Tsubo coffee house (a short-lived jazz hotspot that would soon become the storied folk and blues club Jabberwock). Recorded in front of an audience, the set would be a hybrid of a recording session and a concert, allowing the band to perform multiple takes of each tune.
Taking place on June 25, 1962, the session paired Montgomery with Chicago tenor saxophonist Johnny “The Little Giant” Griffin, alongside the Wynton Kelly Trio (pianist Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb—all three of whom made up Miles Davis’ celebrated rhythm section). On the program was a variety of bop, blues and ballads. In his liner notes, Milkowski writes, “Full House captures Wes at the top of his game as he electrifies the audience of students, jazz fans and hipsters with his inventive and inherently melodic improvisations, propelled by the superbly swinging rhythm section.” Both Montgomery and Griffin, he adds, offer powerhouse performances, with “a take-no-prisoners approach on the individual solos.”
The original, six-track album (released in November 1962) opens with the sprightly Montgomery original “Full House.” The waltz-time tune showcases the guitarist’s use of octaves, which he sprinkles throughout. Milkowski praises, “The vocabulary is refreshingly modern, full of surprising filigrees and inventive harmonic implications as the piece evolves. Wes . . . play[s] cat-and-mouse with his own facile single-note lines before going all-in on the parallel octaves.” Griffin, meanwhile, brings “pungent tones, hip phrasing, and a kind of inherent swagger that reflects his own bad-ass persona. By the five-minute mark, the Little Giant is pouring it on, nonchalantly double-timing the pulse while digging deep for blue notes.”
The quintet slows things down with a straightforward reading of the Lerner/Lowe standard “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (from the 1956 musical My Fair Lady), before picking the pace back up with Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ’N’ Boogie.” Kelly’s rhythm section shines particularly bright in this bop classic, keeping the nearly 10-minute-long performance moving as Montgomery and Griffin strut their stuff. Then, they return to another Montgomery original—the Latin-tinged “Cariba”—in which they deliver several standout solos, including those by Kelly and Chambers, before reimagining the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer ballad “Come Rain or Come Shine,” with a jaunty swing, led by Cobb’s tight brushwork on the drums.
The original album closes with Montgomery’s energetic “S.O.S.,” several takes of which are featured in The Complete Full House Recordings, including the previously unreleased “S.O.S. (Take 1).” Milkowski notes that “this take is brimming with energy.” Another version, “S.O.S. (Take 2)” (originally released on The Alternative Wes Montgomery), finds the group tackling the challenging piece with ease and features a particularly outstanding solo from Griffin.
Also included in The Complete Full House Recordings is a previously unreleased take of the title track. The original album version of “Full House” was, in fact, a composite of two takes in which Montgomery’s guitar solo was edited in. Now, for the first time, listeners can hear the complete unedited master take, with Montgomery’s originally played (and previously replaced) guitar solo restored. The collection also compiles alternate takes (all previously released on either Wes Montgomery: The Complete Riverside Recordings or The Alternative Wes Montgomery) of “Cariba,” “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “Blue ’N’ Boogie,” as well as two renditions of Mel Tormé’s ballad “Born to Be Blue.” Both takes, which do not feature Griffin, showcase the phenomenal interplay between Montgomery and Kelly’s trio—first with a subdued approach and then with a more energetic attack.
Praised by Downbeat as catching “Montgomery at the blazing top of his form,” Full House secured Montgomery’s place as a bona fide jazz star and has long been considered an essential title from his all-too-brief career. Following his time at Riverside, Montgomery would turn his focus primarily to pop-oriented music and found significant crossover success with instrumental covers of the era’s biggest hits—several of which earned him GRAMMY® Awards.
Montgomery, who passed away unexpectedly in 1968, not only left behind a beloved canon of music but also an impact that continues to reverberate. “Wes Montgomery forever changed the language of the guitar,” writes Milkowski. “Generations of guitarists who followed in his wake were swept away by the warmth of his tone, the freedom and fluidity of his ideas, and the persistent swing in his unerring time feel.” Among his immediate disciples were contemporaries like Joe Pass, Pat Martino and George Benson. In the following decades, stars like John Scofield, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour continued the through line, while rising guitarists like Randy Napoleon, Tim Fitzgerald and Mimi Fox keep Montgomery’s legacy alive today.
Click here to pre-order The Complete Full House Recordings
The Complete Full House Recordings Tracklist (3-LP)
1. Full House
2. I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face
3. Blue ’N’ Boogie
2. Come Rain Or Come Shine
Alternate Takes & Outtakes
1. Full House (with originally played Montgomery solo restored)*
2. Blue ’N’ Boogie (Take 1, Alternate)
1. Cariba (Take 1, Alternate)
2. Come Rain Or Come Shine (Take 1, Alternate)
1. S.O.S. (Take 1, Alternate)*
2. S.O.S. (Take 2, Alternate)
1. Born To Be Blue (Take 1, Outtake)
2. Born To Be Blue (Take 2, Outtake)
The Complete Full House Recordings Tracklist (2-CD/Digital)
1. Full House
2. I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face
3. Blue ’N’ Boogie
5. Come Rain Or Come Shine
Disc 2 – Alternate Takes & Outtakes
1. Full House (with originally played Montgomery solo restored*)
2. Blue ’N’ Boogie (Take 1, Alternate)
3. Cariba (Take 1, Alternate)
4. Come Rain Or Come Shine (Take 1, Alternate)
5. S.O.S. (Take 1, Alternate*)
6. S.O.S. (Take 2, Alternate)
7. Born To Be Blue (Take 1, Outtake)
8. Born To Be Blue (Take 2, Outtake)