Friday, February 27, 2015

First Wes Montgomery Tribute Award presentation and concert rescheduled for March 29

Steve Weakley is first recipient of a new award.

Ralph Adams has long tended the Indianapolis jazz garden, making sure local talent both past and present is properly nurtured and remembered. His latest venture is to hold up the Wes Montgomery legacy as a way to honor outstanding local contributors to the music.

Wes Montgomery (1923-68)
The inaugural award goes to Steve Weakley, a veteran jazz guitarist whose work around the city is well-known. Adams, in cooperation with Chef Joseph's, Indiana Black Expo, Stuart Mortuary, the Indianapolis Recorder, and Jazz-City Internet Radio, will present Weakley in concert, fronting a quartet, at 6 p.m. March 29 at Chef Joseph's, 115 E. Ohio St. The event, originally scheduled for March 1, had to be postponed because of the wintry weather.

Advance tickets, $12 each, are available online +Eventbrite
Admission at the door, which opens at 5 p.m. Sunday,  is $15.

Joining Weakley will be Kevin Anker, organ; Richard "Sleepy" Floyd, drums, and Rob Dixon, tenor saxophone.

Montgomery, the best-known of a fraternal set of jazz musicians that included bassist Monk and pianist-vibraphonist Buddy, is remembered in part for the brevity of his professional career — snuffed out prematurely like the lives of too many important jazz musicians. Just 20 years after earning professional credibility on the road with the Lionel Hampton band in 1948, the guitarist died suddenly of a heart attack in his hometown, Indianapolis, which continued to be his home base after his international fame was established.

With his brothers and other Naptown notables including the late pianist-organist Melvin Rhyne, Montgomery contributed to the substantial reputation of the Indiana Avenue jazz scene in the 1950s.  A famous phone call from touring saxophonist Cannonball Adderley from an Avenue hotspot to his label boss, Orrin Keepnews, got the guitarist signed with Riverside Records, where he made most of his outstanding recordings. He is remembered for his fertile single-line solos as well as his signature long-running octave phrases.

His career in the 1960s was marked by what many have lamented as a distinct commercial turn, though there are outstanding monuments to his genuine jazz playing available on Verve.  His technical facility, melodic gift, and the amiable, relaxed nature of his style lent him viability as a pop-jazz star in the last year or so of his life.