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Wes Montgomery's Latin Jazz EP was released on Feb. 5 on through Zoho Music. Photo: Mariana Meraz​​​​​​​
Wes Montgomery's Latin Jazz EP was released on Feb. 5 on through Zoho Music. Photo: Mariana Meraz

Wes Montgomery: From hard bop to jazz fusion

The Latin Jazz of Wes Montgomery is Nelson Riveros' tribute album, in which he exorcises the musical keys of the Indiana guitarist.

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The first stage of the project initiated by the Colombian guitarist Nelson Riveros culminates with the release of the tribute album, The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery, with one original track and eight others that pay tribute in a Latin key to famous jazz figure, John Leslie Wes Montgomery, from Indianapolis, Indiana.

For the tone he wanted to bring to the tribute, Riveros counted on collaborations with other Latino artists such as Jonathan Gomez (percussion), award winners like Hector Martignon (piano), and virtuosos such as Mark Walker (drums) and Andy McKee (bass).

The project, highly-influenced by Afro-Cuban music, such as tumbao or Brazilian salsa, in Nelson's words, worked in a very organic way, rethinking melodies in a Latin American key among guitarists. 

"I started to hear all kind of rhythms, bass lines, and melodic variations to some of his tunes. The next day, I started writing arrangements, and this very project began to take shape," he said.

The differences between the two guitarists and the tumbao's shadow are most noticeable on the third track, "Four on Six." Still, in general, all the songs have their rhythmic pattern accentuated by drums. Riveros keeps the guitar, but adds Caribbean figures and little notes, and maracas sounds, to give the Latin color note he intended on the already classic songs.

This works not because it creates new musical genealogies, but because the styles were already in use. The evolution of jazz from hard bop — the style marked by Miles Davis and East Coast jazz, and influenced by blues chords, to the current jazz fusion — is a growing trend. Figures such as Herbie Hancock are pioneers. In general, one can appreciate the assimilation of ethnic rhythms and innovations of bossa nova and Brazilian jazz from which the new album takes inheritance.

Recorded in Little Falls, Minnesota, his remix works almost as an inspiration after the previous variations. The guitarist comes even closer to the carnival rhythms of Brazil's afoxê and the original son jarocho from Veracruz.

Nelson Riveros, born in New York, made his Latin debut staging in 2010 with Camino al Barrio, a Latin-Jazz album that earned him the "Best Latin Jazz Guitar" in the Latin Jazz Corner Best of the Year Awards.

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