Fontana Records

The Fontana label was created in the UK in 1958 by the Dutch electrical group Philips. It lasted until 1970, when it was replaced by the Vertigo label to compete in the prog-rock market against Decca’s Deram and EMI’s Harvest Records.

Fontana were pressed by Philips plants, as indicated by the distinctive Philips matrix number format seen above. Most UK releases on Fontana were pressed either by Philips UK ( code 420 in the matrix) or Philips Dutch pressing plant (code 670 in the matrix). The calibre of engineering and pressing was consistently reliable and of a very high standard, with vibrant dynamics, though not quite to that achieved by Decca. Most but not all are mono pressings

  1. Fontana black/silver label

1a. 33 1/3 with r p m suffix; “A PRODUCT OF PHILIPS ELECTRICAL LTD”

1b. 33 1/3 without rpm

2. Fontana Black/silver – “full stereo

33 1/3 with r p m

Stereo pressings, which were relatively rare on Fontana.

3. Fontana Steel Blue/ silver

Fontana “Popular Jazz Series” appearing in early/mid 60’s, selection of covers from over thirty titles issued:


Includes a number are artist compilations though some are special single LP recording among them. Covers are thick card laminated covers, often with a “girlie” montage. The recordings themselves sometimes date back two to five years before  these releases.

Mono: FLJ series – data in frames

Stereo: SFL series

Quality of recordings can be variable but some are exceptionally good and the Ronnie Scott connection is most interesting. Not to be overlooked, but anyone with a large collection of jazz will find they have most of the tracks already on original albums.


24 thoughts on “Fontana

  1. Pingback: La mise en place de la collection Jazz Club Series | Jazz Pop Art

  2. Fontana did a wonderful job in producing a series of free jazz records with beautiful artwork by Marte Röling. Very collectible records, which have later been reissued in Japan. It’s also worth mentioning that Eric Dolphy’s ‘Last Date’ was originally released on the Fontana label (with the mono version having a completely different cover than the stereo version). I do own two of the free jazz series records (both stereo) and an original stereo copy of Last Date. I could supply you with photographs if you want.


  3. seems worth mentioning that the series with the exclamation marks and the girls on front often miss one track from an original album, when they are not compilations.


    • Useful to know. The two Clifford Brown titles host a stellar array of sidemen – Sonny Rollins/ Harold Land (Easy!), Zoot Sims (Warm!), the later of which is a beautiful recording from the Pacific Jazz stable. The Hubbard is a very odd kettle of fish – Pepper Adams/ Duke Pearson, later repackaged as a Duke Pearson album. Zoot Sims “Cookin'” sells for a tidy sum, but has the fab Love For Sale track faded out half way.

      Never a dull moment, a mixed bag, generally undervaued.


    • Fontana pressings of Prestige records. There are only a few. Some Moodsville albums, not any real Prestige, as far as I am aware. I have had a Fontana album ex Moodsville by Yusef Lateef, “Eastern Moods” or a similar title. The audio was excellent, much better than the original Moodsville.


  4. Can anyone explain how to read the matrix number of fontana black and silver labels please.
    I understand the Philips UK ( code 420 in the matrix) but not the rest, like which pressing it is?
    Thank you for any help you can give me.


    • The 420 confirms it’s a Philips UK pressing Chingford plant. Since it is remastered locally by Philips from copy tape, no direct lineage to the original Columbia master and metal, any lower level of stamper /pressing data is not really helpful, the umbilical cord has already been cut. You can’t have a UK First Pressing, only a UK First Reissue. Semantics I know, but that is how Columbia chose to export recordings.


  5. the initial grey/black Fontana label was used in England, Holland, Germany and Sweden. And maybe beyond. Each national label had minor distinctive features making the origin recognizeable. The most typical being the German needlepoint with 33 written in it, which is a common feature for German vinyl in that period.


  6. Has anyone got a 1960 French Fontana pressing of Kind of Blue? I’m wondering if it’s worth a punt over a worse condition UK issue.


    • Difficult to generalise – I have a reasonable number of French pressings, and an occasional buyer of vintage vinyl in France, and both can be a discouraging experience.

      But because Fontana was a Philips-owned label, and a lot of pressing for the European market was done by the Philips Dutch plant, the likelihood is that you will be comparing a UK Philips press of KoB with a Dutch Philips press of KoB, not a French one, and they are mostly pretty good, occasionally exceptional. However Philips had facilities all over the place.

      Having listened yesterday to a friend’s Columbia Six-Eye mono test pressing (white label), and my own UK and US copies, it can be a bit of a lottery what you get. But it is such a great piece of music, I would recommend you get as many copies as you can. Among them, one is sure to be better than the others.


      • I have had a green label French Fontana pressing of KoB. Visually it was NM. Sound-Wise it was NM too, but for track n° three on side which gave a distorted sound reproduction. I don’t know if it was inherent to the pressing or due to mistreatment by the previous owner. I sold it. I have other green label French Fontanas and they are all excellent in sound.


  7. I’m playing a Stereo Fontana of Dolphy’s “Last Date.” The sound quality is surprisingly excellent and unexpected for the price I paid. All instruments have superb clarity. It’s probably one of my best records. I’m still in disbelief at what I’m hearing. I’ve heard this session before but never like this. I feel like I’m at the club. Text on record cover appears in a foreign language that I can’t identify. The cover bottom reads: “Impreso en Espania por Graficas Foco, S. A. – San Romualdo, 26 – 28037 Madrid. Number on the top of the cover is 424 550-1

    Google’s language identifier indicates it’s either Spanish, Catalan or Italian. (Big help.)


    • Hi Seth,
      That you have is a spanish issue from 1989.Am I right? It is actually from the Maestros del Jazz collection which is a very ‘popular’ and kind of low budget one.
      I’m surprised at your comments and actually never heard it in that issue so I’ll try to get me one to hear it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s