Speechless, Bruce Cockburn's first foray into completely instrumental territory, is proof in the pudding that you can teach an old dog new tricks. There are 15 tracks here, the vast majority of which are redos of tracks from Cockburn's catalog. But given their treatment – many of them done as solo guitar pieces – the dearth of new material doesn't even matter. In fact, one could venture to say that these feel like altogether new pieces. Cockburn is a master guitarist; he often interweaves jazz, blues, country, and folk styles into his cross-genre songs. Here he shines, pure and simple. "Train in the Rain" (anyone notice how many of his songs are about trains and travel?) touches on Leo Kottke and Peter Lang; "Water into Wine" utilizes flamenco stylings while crossing into Gypsy jazz chords à la Charlie Byrd. A new work, "Elegy," kisses the modalities of "Greensleeves" while creating itself as a piece that evokes both absence and memory. "Rouler Sa Bosse" from Salt, Sun and Time juxtaposes Cockburn's six-string against Jack Zaza's clarinet, and becomes a straight-up gently swinging jazz tune.
A rare meeting of guitarist Wes Montgomery and the trio of pianist Wynton Kelly – heard here on unissued material that stands strongly next to their classic Smoking At The Half Note album on Verve! About half the tracks here just feature Kelly's trio – but that's A-Ok with us, as the group is wonderful – a luminous unit that features Ron McClure on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums – both players who showcase the maturing style of Wynton's piano work – a great mix of lyricism that stretches out beautifully on the album's longer tracks! Montgomery joins in about a third into the set, and the tunes get even sharper and groovier – as Wes' tones ring out strongly next to the piano, often opening up Kelly with even more chromatic hues. The whole thing is very well-recorded, and beautifully remastered.
All eight of the albums Wes Montgomery issued on Verve in the mid-'60s (including the two he did with organist Jimmy Smith) are on this limited-edition, five-CD box set. With the addition of 20 bonus tracks (none previously unreleased, some of them alternate takes or overdubbed versions) and a 76-page booklet that includes readable reproductions of the original LP sleeves, it's the definitive compilation of his work for the label. By its very size, of course, its appeal might be limited to completists and serious collectors.
Monte Montgomery tears it up on the fretboard and the mic, and he's brought a strong rhythm section just for reinforcement. His guitar playing describes a true wealth of sounds–just picture a slap-bass player on an acoustic steel string with a penchant for Stevie Ray Vaughn, and you'll be in the ballpark. At the same time, his blazing fingerstyle, precise, percussive accompaniment, and exceedingly creative use of harmonics are only part of his truly unique guitar style. And Montgomery's outstanding technique does not prevent him from delivering a clear, melodic solo that dances through the changes.The folk-tinged songwriting is well developed, and this man's got stuff to say about life and love. In fact, Montgomery is an impressive, versatile vocalist in his own right……