The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wes Montgomery & Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir

John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery was born on March 6, 1923 in Indianapolis IN. He’s one of my favorite jazz guitarists and was a superb improviser. Wes learned to play the guitar by studying Charlie Christian and playing his music by ear. Like several other jazz greats, he never played with a pick but used his thumb instead. You hear a lot of his influence in the styles of countless guitarists today, especially when they use his technique of playing octaves while soloing.

From 1948 to 1950 he toured with the outstanding vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, but returned to Naptown (Indianapolis for those of you not familiar with its nickname) where he joined up with his brother Monk (bass) and Buddy (vibes) and began recording for the Pacific Jazz label. He began to move away from straight jazz and crossed over to a more pop/jazz style where he became immensely popular. In 1966 he won a Grammy Award for “Best Instrumental Jazz Performance. He won his second Grammy Award in 1969 in the same category. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to receive it, because at the height of his career on June 15, 1968, he died of a heart attack.

Montgomery was a jazz and guitar giant who left a legacy of style that is copied by practically every virtuoso guitarist today.

The days of wine & roses:

The elegance of Wes Montgomery’s playing calls for an equally elegant wine, so I suggest a 2010 Cooper Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir ($23.00 from Shaw’s off Copley Place in Boston). My wife and I enjoyed a bottle as we relaxed in our hotel room after hearing my son’s successful defense of his doctoral thesis at Harvard Med. Now there are two Dr. Olives in the family. The Cooper Mountain Pinot has subtle aromas of bright cherries and black tea. Likewise the palate is full of tart cherry joined by nuances of black raspberry, nice acidity and light tannins. It’s quite dry and refreshing and perfect for the occasion because the weather in Boston was unseasonably warm. It’s perfect for listening to the music of a musical giant like Wes.


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