Although most Wes Montgomery fans associate his playing with strings with his later A&M and Verve recordings, the influential guitarist actually fronted a string section for the first time on this Riverside date from 1963, which had the ironic name of Fusion. As with his later albums, Montgomery's guitar solos here are brief and melodic but the jazz content is fairly high even if the emphasis is (with the exception of "Tune Up") on ballads.
Let's put the hook in right from the jump: Echoes of Indiana Avenue is perhaps the most significant release of previously unissued material by a major jazz artist since the The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall appeared in 2005. That's not hyperbole. These tapes, which consist of two live recordings and one studio demo, were cut, presumably, between 1957 and 1958, with various groupings of musicians, including his brothers Monk and Buddy, as well as pianist Earl Van Riper and bassist Mingo Jones. All of the tunes here are now regarded as standards, but some were current then, freshly added in that era, such as Shorty Rogers' "Diablo's Dance," Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," and perhaps most importantly, Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" and "Straight No Chaser."
On two of the songs included on Tequila, "Tequila" and "The Thumb," Wes Montgomery had an opportunity to jam a bit while backed just by bassist Ron Carter, drummer Grady Tate and the congas of Ray Barretto. The other six selections utilize a string section arranged by Claus Ogerman but, even with a throwaway version of "What the World Needs Now Is Love," there are memorable renditions of "Bumpin' on Sunset" and "Insensatez" that uplift this album quite a bit beyond the guitarist's later A&M recordings.
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.