Wes Montgomery


Wes Montgomery


“A lot of the things I am doing, I have no answer for- … maybe someone else can explain them better that I can…”    Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery was born on March 6th 1923 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and learned by transcribing Charlie Christian solo’s note for note, and after only 1 year was performing professionally. He was self taught and played entirely by ear, but was so gifted he spent 2 years touring with big band leader and jazz icon Lionel Hampton before he quit the life on the road in favor of a day job and regular local club work with his brothers and as a sideman. At the ripe old age of 36 Montgomery recorded his first album as a leader, the 1959 album “The Wes Montgomery Trio”.   Soon after career blossomed and he achieved critical and commercial success never seen before from a jazz guitarist, but unfortunately nine years later he was dead, the victim of a heart attack at the age of 45.

His significance in jazz history is measured by his inclusion in the Smithsonian Jazz Collection, where he is placed alongside iconic figures such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. It is notable that only 3 guitarists are featured in this collection, the  other two being Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian. Of these 3 guitarists, it was Montgomery that extended the improvised solo to its full extent  and  his original techniques and advanced skill continues to be the benchmark by which all jazz guitarists are measured.

If you are reading this then you probably are an aspiring jazz guitarist trying to get the licks and lines into your solos, and wondering how the greats like Wes do it. Rather than collect the licks and tricks, we must go beyond that and uncover the formulas Wes used in his improvisations. I have uncovered these principles of improvisation which work for anyone from intermediate to advanced levels, and am happy to share these in private lessons either in person or over Skype.

Notable Characteristics of Montgomery’s style




Four On Six Learning Track

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A unique take on the Jerome Kern standard, this features Wes playing the melody in the lower register of the guitar, a technique also adopted by Pat Martino, with chord punctuations above the melody.

Wes Montgomery Lessons – All