Ever since the first time I heard Wes Montgomery--which was on the stand in a club--I have been among those anxious to have a live record come into being. But not just any old "live" date would do. All concerned wanted to wait for the best possible set-up: the right time, the right place, the right supporting cast.
Then, early in June of 1962, Wes telephoned from California with news that all the necessary ingredients seemed to be at hand. He was in San Francisco. The Miles Davis Sextet was in town--meaning that the magnificent and close-knit rhythm unit of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb was available. Also in the city was tenorman Johnny Griffin. All these were men between whom there was considerable mutual respect. Furthermore, Wes had some new tunes that he felt would go very well in quintet form. Just across the bay, in the city of Berkeley, was a coffee house exotically named "Tsubo"; Wes had worked there with his brothers and was excited about the far better than average acoustics of the place. Last, but surely not least, the jazz audiences of that area are wonderfully stimulating people to play for.
It was decided to record in Tsubo on a Monday, when his chosen associates would be having a night off from their regular jobs; and Wes began at once to make the group familiar with the material. On June 25th, as engineer Wally Heider began to set up his equipment, it became obvious that the only audience problem might be one of excess--alerted by local newspaper stories and word-of-mouth, the faithful were arriving early, and long before starting time the modest-sized club was packed to the doors. Actually, the line outside the door stretched around the corner all night long, and there was also a permanent outdoor audience in a parking lot next door, listening via the loudspeakers in the "control room" we had set up in a storeroom behind the club! In short, the title Full House (which originally struck me as a suitable reference to a group of five consisting strictly of kings and aces) can be taken as an entirely factual description of the setting for this album.
I propose to let the music contained herin speak for itself. Most of the tracks are on the long side, deliberately, for one major reason. For recording Wes "live" was to capture the breathtaking way he can build a solo through chorus after chorus. Too often the term "stretching out" really means nothing more than a lengthy and eventually tiresome solo stint; but the manner in which Wes constructs his solos is something else, bringing into play his amazing sense of dynamics and his "impossible" octave and block-chord effects. Even such always-fiery and tasteful soloists as Griffin and Kelly seem to have picked up an extra spark or two from Wes on this occasion.
So, without in any way detracting from the vigor and importance of past and future Wes Montgomery records, it can certainly be said that this album, capturing a brilliant jazz artist under the best of circumstances, is something truly special.
--ORRIN KEEPNEWS, from the liner notes.