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Wes Montgomery

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John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery (March 6, 1923 – June 15, 1968) was an American jazz guitarist. He is widely considered one of the major jazz guitarists, emerging after such seminal figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and influencing countless others, including George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Royce Campbell, Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Howe, Russell Malone, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour, Randy Napoleon, and Emily Remler.

Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to NPR Jazz Profiles “The Life and Music Of Wes Montgomery,” the nickname “Wes” was a child’s abbreviation of his middle name, Leslie. He came from a musical family; his brothers, Monk (double bass and electric bass) and Buddy (vibraphone and piano), were jazz performers. The brothers released a number of albums together as the Montgomery Brothers. Although he was not skilled at reading music, he could learn complex melodies and riffs by ear. Montgomery started learning the six string guitar at the relatively late age of 20 by listening to and learning the recordings of his idol, guitarist Charlie Christian; however, he had played a four string tenor guitar since age twelve. He was known for his ability to play Christian’s solos note for note and was hired by Lionel Hampton for this ability.

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