Leslie "Wes" Montgomery (6 March 1923 - 15 June 1968) was an American jazz guitarist. He is generally considered one of the major jazz guitarists, emerging after such seminal figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and influencing countless others, including Pat Martino, George Benson, and Pat Metheny.
According to Jazz guitar educator Wolf Marshall, Montgomery often approached solos in a three-tiered manner: He would begin a repeating progression with single note lines, derived from scales or modes; after a fitting number of sequences, he would play octaves for a few more sequences, finally culminating with block chords.
The use of octaves (playing the same note on two strings one octave apart) for which he is widely known, became known as "the Naptown Sound". Montgomery was also an excellent "single-line" or "single-note" player, and was very influential in the use of block chords in his solos. His playing on the jazz standard Lover Man is an example of his single-note, octave- and block-chord soloing. ("Lover Man" appears on the Fantasy album The Montgomery Brothers.)
Instead of using a guitar pick, Montgomery plucked the strings with the fleshy part of his thumb, using downstrokes for single notes and a combination of upstrokes and downstrokes for chords and octaves. Montgomery developed this technique not for technical reasons but for his wife. He worked long hours as a machinist before his career began and practiced late at night while his wife was sleeping. He played with his thumb so that his playing would be softer and not wake her. This technique enabled him to get a mellow, expressive tone from his guitar. George Benson, in the liner notes of the Ultimate Wes Montgomery album, wrote, "Wes had a corn on his thumb, which gave his sound that point. He would get one sound for the soft parts, and then that point by using the corn. That's why no one will ever match Wes. And his thumb was double-jointed. He could bend it all the way back to touch his wrist, which he would do to shock people."
He generally played a Gibson L-5CES guitar. In his later years he played one of two guitars that Gibson custom made for him. In his early years, Montgomery had a tube amp, often a Fender. In his later years, he played a solid state Standel amp with a 15-inch (380 mm) speaker.John