OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS Q&A - Hugh Buckley on Wes Montgomery
For the next in IMC's Icons of Jazz series, the spotlight falls on the music of legendary Indianapolis-born guitarist Wes Montgomery, whose influence on the jazz guitar can hardly be overstated. Bringing his own brand of flowing melodicism to a selection of music connected with Montgomery is Dublin-born Hugh Buckley, a self-taught guitarist, composer, arranger, educator and long-standing icon of the Irish jazz scene.
Hugh shared with us some of his thoughts on what makes Montgomery's style so unique and how it's played into his own musical style.
Tickets now on sale HERE, please join us on Saturday 20th March at 8pm to experience this incredible music!
Do you have any memories of your first encounters with Wes Montgomery’s music?
I heard this album, at a friend’s house actually, ‘Smokin’ at the Half Note’, and I was just blown away by the sound of it. His playing was just on another level to what I’d heard before. There was a great sense of swing and a deep understanding of the blues - he had a great sense of history there - but there was also this really original sound.
Wes’s playing is so distinctive - very often in a solo he’ll build it up, starting from a single line, and then he’ll play octaves, which is something he really brought to another level. I think Django Reinhardt used octaves in his playing before this, but Wes really used it to an amazing new level, technically, playing them as fast as you might play single lines. And then he’ll play block chords next, he’s building these textures all the way through.
That’s a very Wes thing, and it just blew me away - you’re listening to the solo and it just builds and builds and builds, and you think it’s coming to a climax, but there’s still more to come. I still remember that, any time I listen to it. And then just the warmth of his sound. He has this great touch - he played with his thumb where most guitar players might play with a plectrum. A lot of people I think would be drawn to Wes’ music for that, this really engaging warm sound.
What changes do you think came into jazz guitar playing as a result of Wes' style of playing?
In my opinion, he brought everything that had been there before him all together, and created this original sound - which became, for me, the sound of modern jazz guitar. He developed it, brought the elements - the harmony and rhythm - to another level under the sound of Wes Montgomery. He’s definitely one of the most influential guitarists around - not just for jazz players - you’d hear rock players and people from other genres saying ‘Wes Montgomery’ and using things as well - certainly his use of octaves, to fatten out the sound and give another texture to solos.
He himself would have been influenced by Charlie Christian, who was an amazing guitar player before that, but he brought everything Christian did to another level. And he absorbed everything that went before, like the bebop language as well, Charlie Parker and those guys.
Do you think that Wes Montgomery had a big influence on you personally as a player?
I suppose initially after hearing him in the first few years I did imitate his style a bit, not that I could play the same way! I took on the octave thing and the block chords. But a few years after that I suppose I came to the conclusion that I had to find my own thing as well. What Wes sort of tells you too is that he found his own way of doing things.
I purposely at one stage stopped referencing his playing, because I got a few reviews of gigs and maybe a recording, and in all of them they referenced Wes Montgomery! It made me say to myself ‘Ok, I need to get something that’s more me.’
But it’s still there, it’s always still there. You’re always trying to play so that it works at a certain level, and his playing always does - it’s so powerful.
Is there anything you'd like the audience to hear in Saturday's concert?
I suppose our approach to this was just to play the tunes and really instinctively react to the music in the moment, so that would be the thing.
I’m not trying to emulate his sound on the guitar, I just wanted to treat his tunes like I would my own tunes or a standard. It’s inevitable that I will imply some of his style with the octaves and chords and things - some of the tunes almost dictate what you play in that way. His compositions are so strongly Wes Montgomery, with those characteristics of his playing, and his sound is so strong and so appealing that you have to reference it.
But really, it’s just three guys interpreting Wes Montgomery’s tunes in our own way.
Also, this was our first time playing together in more than a year, which was great! We were a little bit nervous, but it’s great to be back doing what we love doing.
Grab your tickets NOW to hear the Hugh Buckley Organ Trio, with organist Darragh Hennessy and drummer Dominic Mullan performing music written and inspired by Wes Montgomery.
Saturday 20th March, 8pm
Streamed online for you to enjoy safely from home