August 2 2014
Embarrassing confession: I am not an authority on vibraphone music. That said I feel extremely confident that Buddy Montgomery's This Rather Than That is one of the finest vibraphone-centric albums ever made, yes even better than Dr. Rufus Ivanhoe's 1967 classic Ghosts At the Laundromat. Okay, the latter doesn't truly exist but nonetheless I stand by my previous statement. As laughable as an album centered around a vibraphone may sound, this record is funky! Admittedly it is not something that I will revisit until my dying day, but objectively speaking this thing has some great jammies on it. Recorded over the course of two days in 1969 by producer Ed Michael from the legendary Impulse! Records (also known as the house that Coltrane built) This Rather Than That is an airy, playful affair, ideal for a summer BBQ. Coincidentally in '69 Montgomery also found himself living in Milwaukee, where he taught jazz to various folk around the city.
Buddy was the younger brother of Wes and Monk Montgomery, with whom he spent his early career backing up. After his brother Wes tragically died of a heart-attack in '68, Buddy furthered his pursuits as a band leader, This Rather Than That serving as his first album recorded after his brother's death and the most acclaimed of his career. This Rather Than That is undeniably cool, from the jump Montgomery's fluid swipes are both swaggering and laid-back, which is a combination that has yet to be replicated to such a high degree. The self-titled album opener sets the tone for this foray into head-bobbing free-jazz with Melvin Rhyne's organ serving as the chunky, yet simultaneously smooth Peanut Butter to Montgomery's potent jelly. My personal favorite on the album has to be “Winding Up”, which features Rhyne at his sauciest and an arrangement full of down-notes that ask the listener if they want to dance, only to answer yes for them before they have had a chance to speak for themselves. Equally ripe for Brewers walk-up songs and sunshine drunkenness, This Rather Than That is guaranteed to make the bees buzz...whatever that means.