Bill Frisell on Wes Montgomery
When I was in high school in Denver, the band director asked me to learn a song. That was my first exposure to Wes Montgomery. It was pivitol. Everything changed from that moment on.

The director knew I played guitar and wanted me to learn Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin On Sunset" for the all-school talent show as back-up for these girls doing a big dance routine. They were going to use the record, but the band director thought it would sound too cheesy.

He got me the music, gave me the album (I believe it was
Tequila) and I went home and learned the song. I thought, so this is jazz, which I had never been exposed to up to that point. The song was simple and it was based on one chord. It wasn't like trying to figure out a Benny Golson song.

I got a bass player and drummer to play with me, and the entire school went nuts when we performed it. That was the fall of 1967. I got more and more fired up by Wes Montgomery. Wes tipped the scale to jazz for me.

My teacher lent me a Wes album, but it was a later one recorded in 1966 with strings. So I went to Walgreens where they had cutout records for 89 cents. And I found Wes's first album, that organ trio with guys from Indianapolis that was the real deal. I think it was recorded in 1959 and had songs like "Round Midnight" "Satin Doll" and "Whisper Not."

That opened the door to jazz for me. Wes had hooked me, and that led me to find a guitar teacher who could help me figure out what was going on with all this music.

That teacher, Dale Brunning, helped me to find out about all the other guys in jazz, like Charlie Parker. I wouldn't have played the guitar if I hadn't met him. He opened the jazz floodgates for me.

-Bill Frisell Down Beat Magazine 2005