Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monk Montgomery- Pioneer Electric Bassist

Monk Montgomery is perhaps the first electric bassist of significance to jazz, introducing the Fender Precision Bass to the genre in 1951. Montgomery also played the double bass. His professional career did not start until after his younger brother Wes, at the age of 30. Montgomery died of cancer in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982.

Back in the 1970's, when I took up bass, I got very  interested in Jazz. I bought every record I could by Jazz bassists, whether electric or upright- Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden. But one of the most interesting and enigmatic records I purchased during that time was one by Monk Montgomery called Bass Odyssey. On that record, I heard cool, tasteful bass playing by a master on the Fender Precision Bass. I have always loved Monk Montgomery's playing since then, and I am extremely disappointed at how hard it is to find his records.

This is my tribute to a master. Before there was Larry Graham or Stanley Clarke, there was Monk Montgomery.

- Lance

Monk Montgomery Facebook Page


Description From Wikipedia: Monk Montgomery is perhaps the first electric bassist of significance to jazz, introducing the Fender Precision Bass to the genre in 1951. Montgomery also played the double bass. His professional career did not start until after his younger brother Wes, at the age of 30. From 1951 to 1953 he worked in Lionel Hampton's Orchestra. After that he worked with his brothers and Alonzo Jo...hnson in the Montgomery Johnson Quintet. In 1955 he moved to Seattle to form the Mastersounds from 1957–1960. Later from 1966–1970, he freelanced with Cal Tjader and continued to play where he settled in Las Vegas, Nevada with The Red Norvo Trio. In his final years he was active in the Las Vegas Jazz Society, which he founded. He had also been planning a world jazz festival. Montgomery died of cancer in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982. He had a wife, Amelia, three sons, and four stepchildren.


Biography From the website http://www.bassguitar.com/ :

Monk Montgomery

To say that William Howard Montgomery came from a musical family would be an understatement. The man nicknamed "Monk" was the oldest of three musical brothers. All three brothers were big names in the music scene of the late '40s, '50s, and throughout the '60s. Wes, the middle brother, played guitar and started before Monk despite bei...ng younger. Buddy, the baby of the bunch, became an accomplished pianist and vibraphonist.

Although Monk didn't get his start in music until the age of 26, and didn't start playing bass until 30, he took to it as though he'd been playing since birth. In 1951, the year he first picked up a bass guitar, he played well enough to join Lionel Hampton's Orchestra. Despite starting out playing the double bass, it was the electric bass guitar that brought Monk popularity. He was the first musician to ever take it on tour, playing Fender's Precision bass. During his time with Hampton's jazz big band, 1951-1953, he played with such greats as saxophonist Johnny Griffin, keyboardist Milt Buckner, and vocalist Dinah Washington. He also toured Europe with Hampton's group in 1953.

Shortly after leaving the orchestra, Monk joined both of his brothers, along with Alonzo and Robert Johnson, to form the Montgomery Johnson Quintet. He toured for nearly a decade in support of the various recordings by himself and his siblings; these albums included Almost Forgotten, Groove Yard, and The Montgomery Brothers Plus Five Others. Despite the rising popularity of his brother Wes, it was Monk and Buddy who moved together to Seattle and formed the group, The Mastersounds. The Mastersounds gained some popularity during the late 1950s and recorded ten total albums under three separate labels. Wes rejoined his brothers for one of those albums in 1958.

Monk had some guest spots on various albums in the early '60s before moving where he finally settled down in 1966 in Las Vegas, Nevada. From 1966 to 1970 he would freelance with Cal Tjader as well as play with the Red Norvo Trio, lead sessions for the Chisa, even perform some disc jockey work. The final twelve years of Monk's life may have been his most active. He was extremely busy with the Las Vegas Jazz Society, which he had founded, and had been planning a world jazz festival. It was during this time that he discovered he had bone cancer. Despite the knowledge of his illness, he never slowed down.

Monk passed away after his battle with cancer on May 20, 1982 at the age of 60. It was never his flash or overpowering sound which attracted him to so many bands and projects. It was a basic, soul-wrenching love of music. It seemed that anyone who ever had the opportunity to play with Monk regarded him as underrated and over-talented. Despite starting in music at such a late age, Monk will forever be known as an innovator, a pioneer, and one of the great jazz bassists of all time.

Playing Style There was never anything fancy or complicated about Monk's playing. He was good, he learned fast and he didn't try to show off with a lot of flash and glamour. He just went out, used finger-style techniques that he had learned on the double bass, and made everyone around him sound better. There was never a lot of slap, pop or speed to Monk's playing; it was just a smooth rhythm that he made look so easy, yet very few could ever accomplish.

Equipment
Monk's biggest claim to fame was that he was the first bassist to ever take the electric on tour. He used one of the first Fender Precisions, which was a 4-string, coupled with a Fender cabinet and head unit.
http://www.bassguitar.com/william-howard-montgomery.html

1 comment:

  1. It was the electric bass guitar that brought Monk popularity. One of the better ways to attain the balance of playing double bass drums is to sit up straight. I like this blog and story, amazing blog!

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