This is easily the second best live jazz album ever created, second only to Smokin’ at the Half Note which was recorded three years later than this one. Both these albums share four things in common.
- Wes Montgomery - Wes is on fire here, showing absolute mastery over his instrument. Rarely do you get to hear someone’s soul vibrate within an instrument like you do here. Wes’ playing is extremely technical, but sweet and simple at the same time. Effortless mastery.
- Miles Davis’ Rythm Section - Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums = one tight rhythm section. The rhythm section of a band is like the plot of a novel; it needs to be tight as it holds everything together. These guys have laid the foundation for a lot of Miles Davis’ magic, so you as a listener are in safe ears with these guys – they know a thing or two about jazz.
- Wynton Kelly - This guy also rolled with Miles Davis, and he is a fantastic pianist. His piano lines are melodic and thoughtful, they complement Wes Montgomery’s playing style perfectly. When it comes to the improvisations Wynton and Wes have each others backs. When Wyton wants to solo Wes will cool off and start comping (jazz term for playing chords!), and when Wynton is out of steam he’ll do the same for Wes – beautiful jazz is the result.
- It’s Live, Yo! - This is what makes this and ‘Smokin’ at the Half Note’ so special, the live jazz atmosphere that epitomises what the genre of music is all about – completely spontaneous human expression through vibrant musical conversation. No punches are held back here, it’s all out from the word GO. No musician lags behind for a breather, they all fish the seas of creativity and haul a monster for us to feast our ears on.
This album gets 5/5 stars without saying, I’ve actually never given an album a star rating in any of my reviews. But no album has really moved me like this one has, and therefore it is the one of the only albums that deserved a place amongst the stars. Download it! OR Buy the album!
I have a very large collection of jazz music, and have been listening to a bunch of records for a long time, but this album in particular has always stood out as my absolute favourite. It would be an understatement to say it is essential listening for any jazz guitar enthusiast. No album captures the smoky atmosphere of a few jazz cats doin’ their thing live like this one does. The sound quality is really solid – Wes Montgomery’s guitar lines come out of his amp like thick punches of sound, mellow and round but very articulate: the ultimate jazz guitar tone. The band consists of Miles Davis’ legendary rhythm section of Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) and Wynton Kelly (piano), who also teamed up with Miles. This musical force also played live together in 1962, 3 years earlier at Tsubo in Berkley, CA. The performance was also recorded and it is just as good as this one.
The real star is clearly Wes Montgomery as his guitar lines showcase purely electrifying jazz melodies and improvisations; the band lays out the smoky canvas for Wes to lay down his splashes of creativity, and this is creativity at its finest, and it’s all live! The great jazz guitarist Pat Metheny once said “I learned to play listening to Wes Montgomery’s Smokin’ at the Half Note”, when you consider how talented Pat Metheny is, that is an amazing compliment. Smokin’ at the Half Note is an album that has received critical acclaim in the music world, and is rated as one of the best jazz records to date; a jazz critic had this to say about 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… Montgomery never played with more drive and confidence, and he’s supported every step of the way by a genuinely smokin’ Wynton Kelly Trio.
Download it! OR Buy the album!
This was Cream’s last ever concert, and they went with a bang. Met with a roaring crowd, all sad to see them go, Cream gave it their last hurrah. Sadly, the night was filmed and recorded, which means the group were under pressure to perform, and as usual they didn’t play nearly as freely as when they were only recorded unknowingly by bootleggers. Even sadder is the fact that the official recording (which this is) is of bootleg quality and the video is a pile of steaming shit. The camera man doesn’t know what the fuck he is doing and tries to incorporate trippy ‘psychedelic’ camera effects, like zooming in and out of Clapton’s nose while he’s soloing, it’s garbage. During crossroads, which Eric Clapton sings and plays lead guitar on, it’s basically his song, the camera is pointing at Ginger Baker the whole time, even during Clapton’s magnificent solo!!! At some point he even zooms in on Clapton’s wah pedal, even though it was kicked out of circuit long after they had finished playing White Room…
Anyway, the songs were really good, and at least the video managed to get some fantastic footage of Eric showcasing his guitar skills (not mid song, but during an interview), making it look like child’s play. The above video has the interview in all it’s glory, which then kicks off into an extremely short, yet amazing (3:32) rendition of Steppin’ Out! This is seriously the shortest they’ve ever done this number, it usually stretches to the 15-20 minute mark! This was also the last song they played, as their encore at the end of the second Albert Hall show. A upside to the inferior quality of the recording is that it really captures what it must’ve been like to hear the legendary Cream play live, you can tell by the hall reverb that the band was playing LOUD! Also, each instrument cuts through the mix nicely, with special mention to Clapton: his guitar tone on this recording is unbelievable! Download it here.
This is the final US concert of the farewell tour. All the East Coast gigs were sold out so the promoter stacked one extra show. The only problem was that there was an 11.00pm noise curfew. By the time Cream hit the stage they only had 30 minutes. It was an unsatisfactory but, ironically fitting, end to this exploitative tour. Some of the audience were further disappointed by the 3 of them having a cream pie fight to celebrate the end of the band.
Despite the finality of the performance they actually turn on a reasonable “Spoonful” and an energetic “Toad”. During “Spoonful” Jack loses an amp, Eric comps and then starts playing with Ginger and Jack rejoins at reduced volume. Download it here.
This is a terrific performance by Cream’s high standards, and marks one of their best Farewell shows. Sadly, by the end of the set Jack, Ginger and Clapton were exhausted and the result was a below par dribble rendition of Spoonful, a song which usually inspired their most fiery improvisations. But there is good to this, the fact that the band were too exhausted to play Spoonful only says one thing about this set, the rest of it was dynamite! The band truly worked themselves up into a sweat, and you can hear it in the above video clip, which happens to be one of the best performances of I’m So Glad ever played. Download it here.
This is one of my favourite Cream bootlegs, it shows Cream at their finest during their Farewell Tour. The above clip demonstrates that Clapton managed to actually pull off a version of Crossroads that can almost stand against the legendary Winterland recording, to do it Clapton ditched the Firebird for the Gibson Les Paul… good choice! Another absolute torrent of awesomeness can be heard in the version of Spoonful, which I am actually listening to right now… oh man! I didn’t even mention Sunshine of Your Love, I’m getting chills just thinking about that TONE. Just download the damn album already!