J.R.Monterose: self-titled BLP 1536 (1956) Div.U.A. (photos added)

J.R. Monterose: “The best tenor you never heard”

Selection: The Third (Donald Byrd)

.  .  .

I’m not sure of the origins of the above rip, which may be a CD rip made some time ago for phone-listening!. When I have access, a vinyl rip will replace in due course.

A  great Byrd composition, perfectly executed, everyone jumps in with gusto, Monterose and Ira Sullivan brass intertwined, Horace Silver takes the driving seat with a rapid fire bouncing solo, swinging like hell, Monterose offers up staccato staircase lines, a quick Philly Joe solo, reprise of the theme, and it is all wrapped up and gone too soon.

Typical of the short bop pieces of the mid 50s. Later in the post (Collector’s Corner) you can compare the presentation of the same tune Byrd recorded five month previously for Prestige, with Art Farmer and Jackie McLean,and  the mighty Barry Harris on piano.

Personally I find this music beautiful, engaging, and nourishing.


J.R. Monterose (age 29)  tenor sax; Ira Sullivan, trumpet; Horace Silver, piano; Wilbur Ware, bass; “Philly” Joe Jones, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 21, 1956

” Monterose’s life was one of sparsely documented itinerancy, pursuing his evolving craft in small-time U.S. venues and during extended stays in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s in Belgium, Holland and Denmark, with occasional low-profile recordings . His preference for small-group work in out of the way places would shape much of his subsequent career, contributing to his musical growth but relegating him to obscurity.  Writer David Brent Johnson described Monterose as “The Best Tenor You Never Heard.”

(Wiki , abridged)

Johnson describes Monterose playing “was all his own, airy and full of weight at the same time, and rife with pleasing, weaving turns of phrase and a compelling, hard-edged honesty.” His best known recording in ensemble is not one many would guess:  Pithecanthropus Erectus, under Mingus, along side Jackie McLean.

He first popped up as a frequent sideman in 1955, on various titles for Prestige and Savoy recorded at Hackensack, and finally for Blue Note on BLP 1524 — ‘Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia, under Kenny Dorham.

Despite his own Blue Note title, opportunities as leader were few and far between, but one arose in 1960, for the Jaro label, which gives us a picture of clean-cut young Monterose on the jacket, suit collar and tie, quite different to the stylised graphic profile on 1536.

The Jaro label offers the unpromising strap line – “Rank Records Of America“. Myself, I wouldn’t say they are that bad.

European recordings start at the end of the ’60s, in Holland, some radio broadcasts, recordings in Munich and Copenhagen, returning to the US at the end of 1979 to record for  Dr Bob Sunenblick’s jazz great’s archival rescue label, Uptown Records, capturing Monterose live.

From the inception of his label in 1979 to the present, Montreal physician Sunenblick produced and released 35 recordings under the label Uptown Records. including two Monterose albums, the second with Tommy Flanagan, of which I have yet to see in the wild:

JR MONTEROSE Live In Albany cover 1920px LJC.jpgArtists

Teddy Kotick, bass; Hod O’Brien, piano; Eddie Robinson, drums; J R Monterose, tenor; recorded at  Lark Tavern, Albany, N.Y.;  recording engineer, Randy Weaver;  mastering engineer Robert C. Ludwig at Masterdisk.

(rip to add at future date)

Vinyl: Uptown 27.02


JR-MONTEROSE-Live-In-Albany-back-1920px-LJCRobert Sunenblick passed away in 2018. Fred Cohen wrote this touching obituary:

“Robert was one of the great jazz detectives, discovering previously unknown recordings by some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He was passionate about the music, backed by an encyclopedic memory. The ability to balance his work in medicine and record producing suggests an exceptional talent. In some ways we were all his patients, healing through his efforts”.

I have around a half dozen Uptown Records vinyl editions, and they are always something of interest, a labour of love. Many were not “historical recordings” at all, but brought together artists from Jazz history, to perform again in familiar musical territory but in modern times. Here for example, in 1985 Sunenblick brought together Freddie Redd and Clifford Jordan:


Uptown is a unique resource, I commend searching out some of those titles on vinyl, though later Uptown issued only CD. To be fair, I guess at that time, CD was thought to be the future. We all make mistakes.

Other titles by Monterose on a variety of labels in the 80’s seem to be on CD, though the Jazzland Rene Thomas album Guitar Groove is vinyl.

An obscure underground figure, rarely seen, J R stepped off the stage finally in 1993. Strangely, his full name was  Frank Anthony Monterose Jr., choosing the diminutive Jr. elevated to J.R.

Love the shirt. And it’s never wrong to wear sun glasses in the dark.

Back to BLP 1536 (I guess a Francis Wolf portrait pictured above?)

Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 1536 early 70s re-issue, re-mastered by UA engineer B.A.

The early ’70s Division of United Artists classic reissue series continues to beguile and seduce, affordable trophies on vintage vinyl, competently remastered by UA house engineers from original Van Gelder tapes.

Market Watch: 

Another day, another auction, a trophy in four figures, makes the Division of United Artists edition a bargain.

Collector’s Corner

That tune, Donald Byrd, The Third – August 1956, Hackensack, with Jackie McLean on alto sax, Barry Harris on piano, released by Prestige, here UK Esquire:


Selection 2: The Third (Donald Byrd)

. . .


Donald Byrd, trumpet; Art Farmer, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jackie McLean , alto saxophone; Barry Harris, piano; Doug Watkins, bass;  Art Taylor, drums; recorded  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, August 3, 1956

The play is less sure-footed, slower and more loose, Byrd’s solo is delightfully “improvised” in its flow and direction, the ensemble lacks the tightness of the Monterose rendition., but I love them both.

Vinyl: Esquire 32-072, UK first issue of PRLP 7062

Notice the Abbey Mfg etching on the original RVG metalware supplied to Esquire, including the Abbey spindle groove ring, unusually on Side 1. Makes me wonder how that “Abbey pressing ring” appeared on an Esquire, Decca pressing.




This post was scraped together with a few bits and pieces prepared some time earlier. Due to  personal circumstances LJC will be out of action for new posts much of August, hopefully back in September. Strange times, strange things happening, but at least we have the music to keep us sane. At least those of us who  are still sane. I’m good for comments and questions, fire away. And if you see something that doesn’t look right…


UPDATE- August 8, 2020

Harry M., The Jazz Paparazzi, has thrown in some interesting pictures of two artists from this post, Horace Silver and Philly Joe, taken at the Jazz Expo 1968.

Sonny Murray, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Max Roach, Jazz Expo 1968,

Thanks as always, Harry. Unique resource.

20 thoughts on “J.R.Monterose: self-titled BLP 1536 (1956) Div.U.A. (photos added)

  1. LJC, you write “remastered by UA house engineers from original Van Gelder tapes” – is it certain that these UA monos were mastered from the original master tapes? I was under the impression that it wasn’t clear if they are from the master tape or a copy, it would be great to know for sure.

    • It’s a fair question I don’t think anyone knows for sure, perhaps I was wrong to suggest it definitively They are not using original Van Gelder metal for sure, so they had to have a source from which to remaster. I reckon these were manufactured around 1971-2, in the transition from Division of Liberty to Division of United Artists, prior to United Artists /UAMARG. The tapes would by this time have moved from New York to Los Angeles, or wherever, so they had access to them. The series is mono (with a few exceptions) at a time when stereo was de facto industry standard. They had access to original artwork and slicks. The labels follow Keystone typesetting conventions and fonts, though the paper stock and inks look slightly different.

      They went to a lot of trouble to fabricate the look of Blue Note (though not the label addresses). Would the engineers have inserted an intermediate step, copy tape, as a mastering source? Possibly. They still needed to replicate mono from Van Gelder two-track tapes for some of these titles. The original tapes were still young, around 15 years or so. Of necessity, a fresh fold-down as source, maybe. All so much a mystery.

      • Thanks a lot for your answer, if the masters were in LA by that time then it is indeed very probable that they were the ones used to cut these releases. I have several of these UA monos and I like them a lot. I got all of them from Japan, it seems that they are quite common there.

        • I am told by dealers that probably three quarters of all collectable vinyl jazz is currently located in Japan! No way to know if that is true, but I met a collector earlier in the year who had just returned to UK from a buying spree in Japan, with two suitcases full of jazz records.

        • I can’t remember where I first read it but there was speculation that this UA mono series was specifically for the Japanese market.

  2. Ha! I can’t believe I didn’t know about that Monterose album recorded at The Lark Tavern in Albany, my hometown! I both performed and frequented there countless times in my day.

  3. Don’t forget Welcome Back J.R. !
    With a bit out of tune piano but great blowing

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  4. I’m glad to see Monterose discussed and his greatness celebrated. But I was surprised no mention on this forum of his In Action LP, which qualifies in many circles as one of the holy grails of jazz record collecting. Recorded in 1964 for the obscure Studio 4 label, with an estimated pressing of @ 300 copies which Monterose sold at his own gigs, it is rarer than hens teeth. A decent copy can go for four figures.

    • The Studio Four album is in the display of six albums hereinabove. True, it has not been discussed as yet. Btw, the first four albums in the display were all released as vinyl albums.
      Reid is saying that Ira Sullivan is on the Prestige ‘3 Trumpets’ album. I am afraid he is wrong.

  5. That J.R. Monterose ‘The Message’ on Jaro International was also released in the UK on a blue label Top Rank LP. Only ever seen one of this mythical rarity.

  6. LJC, I have the same UA reissue of 1536. My copy has EcK in the deadwax, not BA
    I think I paid $10 for it a few years ago. Yes it certainly is a bargain when compared to an original

  7. Thank You…Nice morning listen and read here on the West Coast. BTW if you enjoy the Donald Bird/Art Farmer version, 2 trumpets, there is a 1963 2-fer from Prestige called Trumpets all out which includes that album and 3 Trumpets a session that also include Ira Sullivan, coincidentally -or not- on that JR Montrose. This is a Mono Blue label Prestige 180gms pressing with RVG metal (and Stamp). Just be sure to check that the vinyl is glossy and not milky… as this is the period when recycled vinyl was snuck in at times.

  8. I have to agree with your comments re: the UA engineered re-issues of the 1500 series in the early 70’s. I have just picked up the Bass on Top – Paul Chambers and Jutta Hipp Hickory House Vol1. Both have air and presence around the players. The tapes would have been relatively fresh being only say 15 yrs old or so and had travelled well. I also have Sonny Clark Trio and that is a delight. The sonics are all there. As with cooking a great meal if the ingredients are good then…….!

    I must also lay praise on George Horn for his remastering of the Settin’ The Pace session that appear on the ‘Rain or Shine’ mid 70’s twofer. Again great mastering with great dynamics. Bass is greatly improved over my original. In facts I am preferring it to my original in some respects. Can I say that? Too late I just did :-/ Some of those Prestige twofers also worth a look IMHO. Just make sure it’s a US pressing which hopefully assures first Get master tape.

    Alas no JR in my collection. Something to remedy methinks.

  9. George Wallington’s first quintet recording on Progressive was subtitled something like ‘Introducing the Peck’. Reference was made to a special way of playing the saxophone, stacato style, Rather than Jackie McLean or Phil Woods, who were playing then with Wallington, the ‘peck’ player par excellence is J.R. Already on his first recording in 1955, with Teddy Charles and Mingus for Prestige, J.R. gives us striking examples of his ‘pecking’ style.
    He would later record a quintet album with Wallington on the East West label, entitled the ‘Prestigiditator’. He is also on Teddy Charles’ Tentet recording on Atlantic.

    • I was going to mention Wellington’s The Prestidigitator, but you beat me to it! It’s a nice small-group recording from a very good year and a great JR Monterose feature. I paid a bit of money for a good original copy recently, but I find myself listening to it much more often than I had anticipated,

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