William Howard "Monk" Montgomery (October 10, 1921 – May 20, 1982) was an American jazz bassist.
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, into a musical family, Monk had three brothers and a sister. His older brother Thomas played drums, and died at 16. Monk played double bass, and gave his younger brother Wes (born 1923) a tenor guitar when Wes was 11 or 12. Wes took up the electric guitar at age 19 and went on to major success. The youngest brother, Buddy (born 1930) played piano and later took up the vibraphone. Their younger sister, Ervena (Lena), also played piano. The three brothers released a number of albums together as the Montgomery Brothers, 〔(Allmusic biography )〕 also playing together on some albums credited to Wes. Also Buddy and Monk recorded many albums together in their group The Mastersounds.
He is perhaps the first electric bassist of significance to jazz, taking up the Fender Precision Bass in 1952 or '53 after replacing Roy Johnson in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. Monk played with his thumb (as did his brother Wes) and adapted his jazz playing from double bass to electric. In the 1960s he took up Fender Jazz Bass, playing with a felt pick.
His professional career did not start until after his younger brother Wes, at the age of 30. Wes worked for vibraphonist Lionel Hampton from 1948-1950, Monk then worked for Hampton around 1952-1953. Monk's recordings with The Art Farmer Septet on 2 July 1953 are some of the earliest recordings of the electric bass, and display his facility with walking bass lines, bebop melodies, and Latin-style ostinato, (Chuck Rainey said that Monk was the first to record).〔Interview with Chuck Rainey, ''Bass Heroes'', ed. Tom Mulhern, 1993, pp165.〕 Monk toured and recorded in Europe with Hampton in late 1953. After that he worked briefly with the Anthony Ortega Quartet in Los Angeles, 〔http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb8779p537;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00020&toc.depth=1&toc.id=&brand=oac4〕 and then with his brothers in the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet in Indianapolis (with Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson, sax, and Robert "Sonny" Johnson, drums). In 1955 he moved to Seattle to form The Mastersounds from 1957 to 1960. Later, from 1966 to 1970, he freelanced with vibraphonist Cal Tjader and continued to play where he settled in Las Vegas, Nevada, with The Red Norvo Trio until 1972.〔http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-montgomery-brothers-mn0000479225/biography〕
Between 1969 and 1974 he released four solo albums.
In 1970 he recorded in Los Angeles with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. In 1974 he recorded his final solo album ''Monk Montgomery in Africa...Live!'' in Soweto, South Africa. In 1977 he helped organise the inaugural Maseru Music Festival in Lesotho which included Dizzy Gillespie, students and staff from Rutgers University and local musicians.〔Billboard, 10 December 1977, "US Musicians at Lesotho Jazz Fest", Hanford Searl〕〔Billboard, 28 January 1978, "Good things stem from Lesotho", Hanford Searl〕
In his final years he was active in the Las Vegas Jazz Society, which he founded,〔http://www.vegasjazz.org/Monk_Bio.htm〕 he also presented a local radio show. He had also been planning a world jazz festival.
Montgomery died of cancer in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982. He had a wife, Amelia, three sons, and four stepchildren.
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