Smokin' at the Half Note

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Smokin' at the Half Note
Smokin half note.jpg
Live album by Wes Montgomery and the Wynton Kelly Trio
Released 1965
Recorded 1965
Genre Jazz
Length 40:58
Label Verve
Producer Creed Taylor
Wes Montgomery chronology
Smokin' at the Half Note
Smokin' Guitar
(1965)Smokin' Guitar1965
Wynton Kelly chronology
(1965) Undiluted1965
Smokin' at the Half Note
(1965) Smokin' at the Half Note1965
Blues on Purpose
(1965) Blues on Purpose1965

Smokin' at the Half Note is the second collaboration jazz album recorded by Wes Montgomery and the Wynton Kelly Trio and released in 1965. It was recorded live in late June 1965 at the Half Note Club in New York City, and September 22, 1965 at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The album combines guitarist Montgomery with the Miles Davis rhythm section from 1959-1963 of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. The album's versions of "Unit 7" and "Four on Six" have helped to establish these songs as jazz standards, and remain important references for their interpretation. This is also the second live album by Wes Montgomery.


Montgomery had performed numerous times previously with Kelly, and the trio of Kelly, Chambers, and Cobb had appeared on previous Montgomery albums for Riverside Records such as Bags Meets Wes and Full House. In the summer of 1965 the quartet toured the major jazz clubs in the US and also appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival on the afternoon of Sunday, July 4. Drummer Jimmy Cobb had previously toured briefly with Montgomery in an organ trio with Melvin Rhyne in 1963.[1]

Only two of the original LP's five tracks were recorded at the Half Note -"No Blues" and "If You Could See Me Now." At the behest of producer Creed Taylor, the other three were re-recorded three months later at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey.[2]

In 1998, Verve reissued the show on disc two of Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides with a scrambled track order and some crucial cuts. The first five tracks are from the original Verve LP. Tracks six through eleven are from the posthumously released Willow Weep for Me, without that album's string arrangements.

Pat Metheny once said, "I learned to play listening to Wes Montgomery's Smokin' at The Half Note."[citation needed] In addition, Metheny stated to the New York Times in 2005 that the solo on "If You Could See Me Now," from this album is his favorite of all time.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars[4]
Jazz Institute of Chicago(no rating)[1]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz3/4 stars[5]

Allmusic jazz critic Jim Smith called the album "essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why Montgomery's dynamic live shows were considered the pinnacle of his brilliant and incredibly influential guitar playing." and wrote that "Montgomery never played with more drive and confidence, and he's supported every step of the way by a genuinely smokin' Wynton Kelly Trio."[4]

In his review for the Jazz Institute of Chicago, jazz author Stuart Nicolson extensively reviewed each song. He praised the album in general, writing "it was in jazz where his impact was most powerfully felt. His style and sound became the role-model for subsequent generations of guitar players and can be heard echoed in the playing of George Benson, Emily Remler, Bruce Forman, Pat Metheny, Mark Whitfield, Kevin Eubanks, and a host of others. These recordings go some way to illustrate why Montgomery turned the jazz world on its collective ear, the effects of which are still with us today."[1]

Track listing[edit]

Side 1 (The original LP)

  1. "No Blues" (Miles Davis) – 13:00
  2. "If You Could See Me Now" (Tadd Dameron, Carl Sigman) – 6:45
  3. "Unit 7" (Sam Jones) – 7:30
  4. "Four on Six" (Wes Montgomery) – 6:45
  5. "What's New?" (Bob Haggart, Johnny Burke) – 6:00

Side 2

  1. "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II) – 5:32
  2. "Oh, You Crazy Moon" (Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke) – 5:35
  3. "Four on Six" (Wes Montgomery)– 9:26
  4. "Misty" (Erroll Garner) – 7:00

2005 Remastered CD issue[edit]

  1. "No Blues" (Miles Davis) – 12:57
  2. "If You Could See Me Now" (Tadd Dameron, Carl Sigman) – 8:21
  3. "Unit 7" (Sam Jones) – 6:44
  4. "Four on Six" (Montgomery) – 6:43
  5. "What's New?" (Bob Haggart, Johnny Burke) – 6:10
  6. "Willow Weep for Me" (Ann Ronell) – 9:08
  7. "Portrait of Jennie" (Gordon Burdge, J. Russell Robinson) – 3:27
  8. "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II) – 6:12
  9. "Oh, You Crazy Moon" (Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke) – 5:29
  10. "Misty" (Erroll Garner) – 6:55
  11. "Impressions" (John Coltrane) – 5:03



  1. ^ a b c Nicholson, Stuart. "Classic Recordings—Wes Montgomery > Review". Jazz Institute of Chicago. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Woodard, Josef (July–August 2005). "Wes Montgomery: The Softer Side of Genius'". JazzTimes. 
  3. ^ Stewart, Zan (February 25, 2005). "Pat Metheny: An Idealist Reconnects With His Mentors". New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Smith, Jim. "Smokin' at the Half Note > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved December 20, 2010. 
  5. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 813. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.