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Guitarist Tim Fitzgerald Talks To Jazz Guitar Today About His New Wes Montgomery Project

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JGT’s Bob Bakert talks to Tim Fitzgerald about “Full House” – a tribute to the guitar playing of Wes Montgomery.

Cellar Music Group announces Tim Fitzgerald’s Full House. For the group’s first outing, Fitzgerald assembles a septet featuring some of Chicago’s finest straight-ahead players: a frontline featuring GRAMMY-nominated Victor Garcia (trumpet) plus acclaimed saxophonists Greg Ward II and Chris Madsen, and a backline featuring Tom Vaitsas (piano) Christian Dillingham (bass) and George Fludas (drums). Fitzgerald has assembled a transformative record, lovingly updating Wes Montgomery’s varied songbook with horn arrangements of some of Montgomery’s famed chord solos, buoyed by the group’s deep understanding of the source material.

Fitzgerald is a busy Chicago-based guitarist and bandleader, who has performed with Von Freeman, Wycliffe Gordon, Makaya McCraven, Marquis Hill, and Denis Charles in a wide array of projects, including the Tim Fitzgerald Quartet, which performs Fitzgerald’s own compositions, and the music of soul-jazz greats like Dr. Lonnie Smith. But this record represents Fitzgerald’s lifelong passion: the guitar playing of Wes Montgomery.

The influence of the American jazz guitarist was a formative one for a young Fitzgerald. “I remember the first time I saw the footage of Wes, a shaky VHS tape of his BBC performance on Jazz 625,” Fitzgerald explains, “I already loved Wes’ music, but when I saw him playing those soulful and sophisticated lines while smiling over his shoulder at his bandmates, I was hooked for life.”

And for more than twenty years, Fitzgerald has engaged in detailed study of Montgomery’s stylish, sensitive and idiosyncratic guitar playing. His dedicated research has produced a variety of projects, including 2009’s 625 Alive: The Wes Montgomery BBC Performance Transcribed, a meticulous book of transcriptions, interviews and corrective scholarship that looked to set the record straight regarding Montgomery’s work on film.

Fitzgerald continues. “I knew I didn’t want to sound like Wes — not that I ever could! But I knew I wanted to get close to his music and eventually to take that inspiration and do my own thing.” That’s certainly the sound of the record – a well-studied group who use Montgomery’s legacy as a jumping-off point for a satisfying musical journey.


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