The lights were blazing in Studio 6, as pictures of famous jazz musician Wes Montgomery hung from the walls of the recording studio in the Radio-Television Building. The stage was set for a taping of some of Montgomery’s most iconic songs in honor of his 100th birthday next year.
Montgomery was an Indianapolis-born jazz musician, known for his inventive guitar playing — which professor of jazz guitar Dave Stryker described as a groundbreaking and game-changing method.
“He developed a technique using his thumb to play and he played octaves,” Stryker said. “It was a totally distinct sound that is emulated by everyone now.”
Stryker played the musical role of Montgomery on the guitar, alongside jazz professor Brent Wallarab’s jazz ensemble and organist Bobby Floyd during the tribute concert. It was taped in front of a live studio audience Monday night.
When taking on the honor of playing Montgomery’s parts on the guitar, Stryker decided to emulate the jazz musician’s work rather than try to copy it.
“He’s one of the greatest of all time,” Stryker said. “I’m just going to celebrate his music as myself, and I will be inspired by him as I’ve always been, and hopefully, I can do him justice through that.”
Todd Gould, IU associate instructor of video production, who has published three books and produced numerous award-winning documentaries, directed the tribute concert. The taped concert will accompany a WTIU documentary about Montgomery premiering in March 2023.
Gould reached out to Wallarab to revive the performance for the documentary after feeling inspired by a tribute performance Wallarab did in 2014, which was also presented at The Jacobs School of Music with the jazz ensemble.
“We thought it would be cool to do a jazz trio and also have Brent come in with the orchestra,” Gould said. “Then Brent got on a creative streak, and we went from about 20 people to 40 people, and it just got bigger and bigger.”
The tribute concert performed songs composed by and featuring Montgomery, like “Naptown Blues” and “Wives and Lovers,” which will be edited into an hour long show for PBS distribution to accompany the release of the documentary.
With the release of the documentary, Gould is excited for people to see the influence Montgomery’s career had and still has on old and new generations of music lovers, especially students who commit their educational lives to learning about these talented musicians.
“Seeing them and knowing that they’re going to be the next generation of people on stage, creating music, not only preserving it,” Gould said, “By adapting it in their own style with their own voice, they create a new musical legacy based on these strong roots that people like Wes Montgomery had created.”