The newly designated Wes Montgomery Tribute Award replaces the 12-year-old Ralph Adams Lifetime Achievement Award “because it’s important to have the award named for someone who has been and remains a major part of Indianapolis’ jazz and blues history,” says Adams.
Adams is designating jazz guitarist Steve Weakley as the first honoree because Weakley is generally recognized as Montgomery’s current standard bearer. Wes’ son John Montgomery, Jr. presented the award to Weakley, a founding member of Funk, Inc., and a headliner and ensemble player on the national scene as well as throughout Indiana, on March 1.
“Indiana has been known as a major center of jazz and blues. The Avenue — Indiana Avenue — was a cultural event and music was a participant in that event for many years. Blues artists were up and down The Avenue in clubs filled with people coming to listen,” cites Adams. And then it disappeared, along with the memory of the vibrant activity.
Adams intends to bring jazz and blues back to Downtown Indianapolis. With The Jazz Kitchen as a solid destination in Broad Ripple, Adams believes it’s timely “to bring jazz home as close as we can get to The Avenue. We need to develop spaces like Chef Joseph’s that are inviting and comfortable, where you can enjoy the music with our current players.” Chef Joseph's hosted the event on Sunday.
Teaching people, introducing audiences to the Indianapolis legacy has been part of Adams’ initiative from the start of his DJ radio career some four decades ago. He came from Chicago already knowing about Indianapolis’ players and their impact elsewhere, and was dismayed about how little Indianapolis residents knew about their own national reputation.
“I want people here to afford to Wes Montgomery and all the others of his generation the same kind of recognition he and they have had and still have elsewhere. This is the time when those of us who heard Wes play are still alive and can speak of him first hand to young people.”