Smokin' at the Half Note is essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why Montgomery's dynamic live shows were considered the pinnacle of his brilliant and incredibly influential guitar playing. Pat Metheny calls this "the absolute greatest jazz guitar album ever made," and with performances of this caliber ("Unit 7" boasts one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded) his statement is easily validated. Montgomery never played with more drive and confidence, and he's supported every step of the way by a genuinely smokin' Wynton Kelly Trio.
Although this is billed to Wes Montgomery, it is in fact a combination of two early-'60s LPs by the Montgomery Brothers – The Montgomery Brothers and The Montgomery Brothers in Canada – onto one disc. (Also note that it's almost entirely different from the Montgomery Brothers' Milestone double LP that also bears the name Groove Brothers, which mostly features material from their Riverside LP Groove Yard.) With Wes on guitar, Monk on bass, and Buddy on piano (Larance Marable fills out the quartet on drums), The Montgomery Brothers (1960) is a boppish set of five lengthy tracks, divided between both originals (penned by either Wes or Buddy) and standards. "June in January" is a particularly good vehicle for Wes' fluid single-note runs, while "D-Natural Blues" is one of his more enduring and good-natured compositions from the period. Buddy Montgomery, who often played the piano with the Montgomery Brothers, sticks exclusively to vibes on The Montgomery Brothers in Canada, which in addition to Wes and Monk has Paul Humphrey on drums.
The single-disc, 29-track compilation Puzzles collects all of Ed Bruce's RCA recordings from the late '60s, including "Blue Denim Eyes," "By Route of New Orleans," "Walker's Woods," "Last Train to Clarksville," "Painted Girls and Wine," "Memphis Morning," "Why Can't I Come Home," "Ninety Seven More to Go," "Give Me More Than You Can Take," "Something Else to Mess Your Mind" and no less than three versions of the title track. While this material is not among Bruce's best-known, it is among his best. Though the duplicate versions of some tracks can be tedious – "Puzzles" is presented in three versions, there are two takes of "I'd Be Best Leaving You," there are both dubbed and undubbed versions of "Painted Girls and Wine" and "Blue Bayou" – Puzzles nevertheless is an excellent way to become acquainted with a fine, underappreciated talent.