See Steve's Hand-Written Solo transcription


Wes Montgomery's solo on:
"The Big Hurt"(Wayne Shanklin)

    When Wes Montgomery's much anticipated LP "TEQUILA"(Verve) was released in 1966, I could not believe my eyes when I saw some of the song titles. More than anything, I couldn't understand why Wes would have recorded one of the most awful pop songs from 1959, titled "The Big Hurt." The original hit version was recorded by singer Toni Fisher. The song itself was not only awful for its overly melodramatic lyrics, but Miss Fisher's vocal now reminds me of what Kay Starr might have sounded like on steroids. Wow! That song was hard to take!!! That stated, I was amazed to hear that Wes Montgomery,TEQUILA Wes Montgomery in the company of bassist Ron Carter, drummer Grady Tate, and conguero Ray Barretto, along with string orchestrations by Claus Ogerman, had turned this tune into a work of great beauty. With Tate's insistent quarter-note pulse, the track has a great drive to it. I have often felt that Wes' chordal melody statement is a perfect example of simple, yet elegant, chord melody playing and I often share those exact voicing with students, because they are not so difficult to execute. What stands out is Wes Montgomery's octave soloing because it is so consistently melodic and rhythmically locked into the pulse. It should also be noted that Wes' phrasing throughout the solo is wonderful because he is, like many great players, purposefully playing behind the beat a little bit. In view of this, I still decided to notate most of the solo in even 8th-note subdivisions rather than exploring whether or not certain passages could have been notated as triplet groupings.
    The melodic statement is played in an [A][A][B] form, but, once Wes' solo begins, that form seems to go right out the window! I have never read an account as to whether or not Claus Ogerman was present as the tracks were being recorded. My sense would be that, IF he had been there, the solo form would have been more strictly adhered to. However, as we have been provided with an 'alternate' take on the CD version which appears there as Trk. [11], you can hear that Wes' solo was played to the form of the tune. What is also most interesting is that we can hear an uncredited piano playing, which could have been virtually anyone, including Claus Ogerman. There is also a rather corny 'interlude' figure which was inserted before and after the solo. Mercifully this was eliminated on the version with which we have now become familiar.
    As you will now see, as the recorded version was performed, the solo form becomes:


To be specific, the Fade is a repeated vamp over 2 bars of Fmaj7(9) and 2 bars of Gbmaj7(9). The melody is never restated. Having been lucky enough to have played on many Creed Taylor productions, I would imagine that Wes might have barely even known this tune, and that they were all probably trying to make some kind of an 'arrangement' out of it, when suddenly they were told that a 'run-through' had become "the take." I would guess that someone was charged with the responsibility to cue the [B] section during the solo, and that was as far as they got. The CD includes a 'run-through' version of the tune with no strings, and this leads me to believe that Claus Ogerman orchestrated the tracks after they had been recorded. In the end, in my opinion, this 'style' of production, of recording, is really insulting to a great artist like Wes Montgomery. But, I think that this was typical for that period. It remains remarkable that his recordings from those years became his most popular, his best known. So, with 'success' like that, the process went on, and other artists had to suffer the same fate.
    The first 4 bars of the tune are a bit reminiscent of "You Stepped Out of a Dream."TEQUILA Wes Montgomery By that I am referring to the fact that it begins on the tonic, in this case Fmaj7(9), and then goes up 1/2-step to Gbmaj7(9). What adds to the harmonic appeal of "The Big Hurt" is that these 4 bars repeat. In the past, I have never really bothered with transcribing the octave portions of Wes Montgomery's improvisations. In part because they simply involve so much more writing and that becomes most tedious. However, if one was to compare and contrast his single-note soloing to the octaves, there would be no question that the octave passages are always much less harmonically complex. There is considerably less chromaticism, and this solo offers a perfect example of that. If we were to simply pay close attention to the first 8 bars of each [A] section, we would learn which scale degrees or chord tones over a major 7th sonority Wes found the greatest emotional connection. Looking at bars 1 & 5 of each [A] section you can see that E-natural, the major 7th, is Wes' target note. You also see a heavy emphasis in these bars on chord tones: C[5th] and A[maj3rd]. The root almost never appears, and when it does, it is only a passing tone. In sharp contrast to this, when the Gbmaj7(9) arrives, Wes' focus seems to change and he concentrates more on the 3rd(Bb); the 9th(Ab); the 5th(Db) and the 6th(Eb). You often see these pitches/tones grouped together Ab-Bb and Db-Eb.
    A case could easily be made that he was simply applying the minor pentatonic based upon the 3rd for each chord. For Fmaj7(9) one would apply A minor pentatonic[A, C, D, E, G); and for Gbmaj7(9), one would apply Bb minor pentatonic(Bb, Db, Eb, F, Ab). This one scale gives you the following "color tones": 6th, maj7th, and 9th. You can't go wrong with any of those notes!
    Earlier I tried to make a point about Grady Tate's driving quarter-note pulse and though this was something he often utilized on Wes' recordings of this period, you can hear and see the impact it has on Wes' rhythmic approach when soloing. Here too, you can observe that Wes places a strong emphasis on the quarter-notes, and his phrases often begin that way, or conclude that way. Take a look at [A1]: bar 1; bars 5-8; bar 11. [A2]: 9-10; 13; 15. [A4]: bars 7-8. You will also see the simple usage of simple 8th-note subdivisions. Examples of this can be found in [A1]: bars 3-4. [A2]: bars 12-13. [A4]: 1-3; 16. There is also a long series of running 8th-notes for most of [A3] which finally comes to end as [B]s only other appearance arrives.
    In addition to Wes' lovely chordal melody statement, which is not offered here, he does present some very nice chordal work, most of which serves to punctuate his phrases in octaves. The voicings he employs are, in truth, very simple but they are fundamental for guitarists, especially those beginning their labors in the Jazz field. In [A2] in bars 2, 4, 6, and 8 he uses very simply major 7th voicings, with the root on the A-string. It is interesting to note that you can barely hear the 3rd, the note 'A', speaking on top of the chord. Chords do not appear again until the last 4 bars of [B] and these are offered in strongly placed staccato rhythms which only add to the drive created by Tate and Barretto. In [A5], his chording returns putting to use Wes' classic voicing with the major 7th on top. It also should be noted that he uses a very 'hip' voicing in bar 3 of that section with the 9th[Ab] on top. You rarely see this particular voicing used in Wes' chordal work. As the Fade begins, he again relies on chords with an emphasis placed on the first quarter-note of virtually each bar. At the top of Pg. 3, for the first 3 bars, Wes uses a particular major 7th voicing of which he was very fond, and though it's a bit hard to hear clearly, in the past, he usually employed the 5th in the bass rather than the root[on the A-string]. What is so nice about its appearance here is that he accentuates the inner voice movement from the major 7th down to the sixth, and this speaks very well.
    With the exception of the barely audible vibes work of George Devens, Wes is, in essence, playing in a guitar trio setting. And, what is so lovely about the string arrangements Claus Ogerman provided is that they are almost solely a single-line counterpoint to Wes' improvisations and the bass pulse provided by the brilliant and so very consistent Ron Carter. This is a great lesson in orchestration simplicity, and is something one should not ever be afraid of.
    As we began, I can't seem to avoid restating that Wes, his fellow musicians, and Claus Ogerman really turned a rather horrid pop song into a work of great beauty. Perhaps some of you might find it worthwhile to explore the Internet to find a soundclip of the original Toni Fisher version of "The Big Hurt." Though I am just guessing, I would have to believe that many of you will be shocked and amazed that it is, in fact, the same song.

[Photo: Wes Montgomery and his Gibson "Heart" L-5
Photo by: Chuck Stewart]

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