Daily News
January, 2010

Go ‘Wes,’ young man
Terrence Brewer essays music of legendary guitarist

For The Daily News

Magic fingers: Wes Montgomery certainly had them. So does Alameda guitarist Terrence Brewer. Joined by B3 organist Wayne De La Cruz, saxophonist Jim Grantham and drummer Micah McClain, Brewer performs a tribute to Wes Montgomery at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society this Sunday. He presented this impressive show at the
Monterey Jazz Festival. Brewer explained to The Daily News why he admires
Montgomery. “Like Charlie Parker, Lester Young or John Coltrane are for saxophone players, Wes, with a single-note, bebop style, had that sort of impact on guitar players. “Charlie Christian set the foundation in the ’30s and ’40s for that single-note style, having guitar players be able to match horn players. But Wes took it to
the next level and created sounds that were unique to the instrument.
He’s probably one of the cleanest guitar players you’ve ever heard.
His style is just so beautiful. The sound is impeccable, very neat and
at very fast tempos a lot of times.” Brewer’s latest album, “Groovin’ Wes,” offers Montgomery compositions, as well as standards the legend helped to popularize.

“I play finger-style like Wes. I think I have pretty fat, round tones, similar to what Wes had. I knew that comparisons were going to come. So I wanted to diffuse that somewhat.
“I put a quote on the back of the CD that a lot of guitar players can imitate Wes Montgomery and I’m really just trying to pay tribute to him with my own voice. I wasn’t trying to replicate a Wes Montgomery album. I wanted to say, ‘These are some of the songs that he did that inspired me tremendously.’ So I’m perfectly comfortable with people saying I do sound like Wes or I don’t sound like Wes.” Immersing himself in Montgomery techniques has enhanced Brewer’s own style. “The lineage of jazz is to soak
up as much as you can from the masters and then, hopefully, come out the other side of it with your own voice. “Certainly, in transcribing all of these Wes Montgomery
songs and improvisations, and in listening to hours and hours of Wes Montgomery, I can’t help but take some of that in. Hopefully I’ve brought that into my own sensibility in my playing.”

The Half Moon Bay venue is ideal for this set. “For jazz musicians, anytime we get to perform in an environment like Bach, which is so intimate, has great acoustics, for a crowd that is very jazz savvy, it’s always a treat,” said Brewer. “In introducing some of the songs, I’ll talk a little bit about Wes and his influence on me. To have a crowd that will understand where I’m going with that will be a real treat for me.”

As a youngster, Brewer, now 34, began by studying woodwinds. In high school, sparked by the sounds of Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Seattle’s grunge bands, he also played guitar. “I fell in love with rock ’n’ roll, like most teenage boys do. “When I got to college, I fell in love with jazz guitar and never looked back. Jazz opened up a whole other world for me.

“It was the depth and the breadth of jazz,” Brewer explained. “Jazz is an art form that can never be mastered. There is such a limitlessness to it. “When you’re playing rock, funk or R&B, they’re sort of groove-driven and, while you can progress them in certain ways and make them more creative, more interesting, they ultimately have kind of a ceiling. Jazz, stylistically and harmonically, has such an endless amount to be learned that every day is a new adventure.”

After college, Brewer studied with guitar greats Charlie Hunter and Duck Baker. Brewer was drawn to fingerstyle playing. “I realized that I could play with a pick and still do occasionally, when I’m working with other people, but that finger-style really was more of my voice. It just felt more natural to me. I definitely felt a deeper connection with the instrument, playing in that style.”

He continues to learn. In addition to his own concert dates and session work, Brewer offers private guitar lessons. “I find that, when I teach students jazz, every day I’m taken on new and different paths. It’s not quite the same for classical or rock, where you sort of stay within certain parameters and try to gain mastery within those parameters. Jazz is just wide open. “I still actively seek out other great guitar players who I look up to and try to study them. There’s always an active learning process going on.” Seeing artists like Kenny Burrelll or Pat Metheny perform live has a dramatic effect on Brewer.

“You can gain a different sort of appreciation for their phrasing, how they’re moving around the neck or how they’re shaping certain chords. That all adds to the learning process.” With four albums already released on his own label, Brewer is working on another CD of standards and one that fuses jazz and hard rock. Of his still growing musical career, Brewer said, “This is something that I would do for free, because I love it so much. The fact that I get to do it for a living is so amazing to me. I try to appreciate it on a daily basis and never take it for granted.

“There’s not a lot of people who have found their passion, let alone get to make an income from that passion. So for me, that’s a phenomenal thing.”

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