"Folks it's time to pony up the coin because this wonderful 1956 J.R. Monterose album (his first) is THE hidden gem of the whole 50's Blue Note catalogue. Mr. Monterose is accompanied by the competent, and rather Fats Navvaro sounding Ira Sullivan on trumpet, the always game Philly Jo Jones on drums, the brilliant Wilbur Ware on bass, and in one of those rare 50's appearances as a sideman: Horace Silver on the ivory. However despite the top-tier-talent of his sidemen the story here is all about Mr. Monterose and his incredibly unique tenor saxophone. J.R. is truly one of those esoteric treats that jazz fans love: a monster talent that largely fell through the cracks of history, but nevertheless left us with a handful of brilliant albums that hint at what could have been, because folks if greatness were measured purely on talent then Mr. Monterose would be right up there with the immortals. Though infused with a somewhat Rollins-like sound Mr. Monterose's phrasing is utterly unique, sometimes behind the beat, sometimes ahead of it, and on this album especially his blowing is incredibly keyed up, wholly mingled with sonic strength and creative focus; bubbling over with intensity. The contrast with the more subtle blowing of Ira Sullivan is a very effective one. This is a session Mr. Monterose was most definitely ready for, which makes sense since it was his first. Now even though I've said this is one of the best 50's Blue Note's around it isn't even J.R.'s best album of the 50's, that distinction goes to his 1959 album: "The Message" (available for download on emusic), which I believe is one of great jazz albums of all time, and if I might extend that thought it's my hope that this Blue Note reissue will bring some long delayed attention to the name J.R. Monterose, and with it a critical reevaluation of his legacy. For as someone who owns just about every album he ever put out I can say with truth that discovering Mr. Monterose has been one of my principle joys as a jazz fan, a joy which it's my sincere hope that others will be able to share. In short if you have a love for pure, un-cut, jazz then do yourself a favor, pick up this album, and hope that someone will make available a less expensive reissue of "The Message". Cheers, and believe me this album, and this talent, is a special one. "
The greatest swinging/bopping tenor man you've never heard b
Eddie Landsberg | Tokyo, Japan | 11/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just exactly how a monster playing like this could have so fallen of the radar, both during and after his life time totally beats me... I really mean it. -- I suspect there's more story to the story, but to be 100% I don't know it... My guess would be that either he had issues that made him difficult to work with and word got around... or the opposite, that he was too gentle a soul to deal with the harsh realities of "the labels" and simply went his way... Hearing him, I strongly doubt he was simply "passed over accidentally"...
Regardless... considering the line up on this album, the fact that I rarely hear this session dropped as "collector's must have" baffles me... even I missed it way to long (and I'm definitely no music collector novice.)
All this said... what about J.R. Montrose...? Well, he attributes Bud Powell as a major influence... While even the shortest listen let's you know he's straight from the school of Parker era bebop, a closer listen does show a lot of Powell's crisp, immaculately articulated yet swinging scale like lines... On top of this though, he also has a big fat Dexter Gordon/Sonny Rollins even texas tenor like sound... In other words, his lines are conceptually sophisticated, yet at the same time, his tone is big at fat, the type that hits you in the gut and really fills the room. (Many players who would follow would play with a similar theoretical approach, but in doing so, in my humble opinion, began to play in a a metalic like way, where notes came over tone, and sometimes the trademark warmth of the tenor was gone and had more alto like qualities - - *am I the only person who constantly moans and whines about this?)
One additional point about him, unlike a lot of the more technically proficient players, he didn't seem to lose a sense of entertainment and communicating with the people, therefore, in each solo he's good at certain attention getting hooks to pull you into to what he's going to do before letting loose. He can also go from surprisingly orthodox (yet incredibly well implemented) bop/swing one moment, then play something very modernstic and ear grabbing the next... because of this, there's a strong edge in his playing.
For these reasons and more, I agree with description of him as a musician's musician... Further, fans of the tenor will really appreciate a session that really has him up front and juiced. - - All and all, this album may have been missing from your collection until now, but take a lesson, and you'll realize that from this day on, it will have a place on the racks !"
Welcome Back J.R.
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 09/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released on CD in the very first round of Blue Note's limited edition Connoisseur Series, under-recognized tenor saxman J.R. Monterose's self-titled debut makes a most welcome return after being out-of-print for nearly 15 years. (Of course, last year's issue by Gambit Spain of the Complete J.R. Monterose Studio Recordings satisfied many rabid customers.) This October 21, 1956 session features another relative unknown on trumpet, Ira Sullivan, but the rhythm trio are household names to jazz fans -- Horace Silver on piano, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. The album features six strong original compositions and an alternate take of the lead-off track, "Wee-Jay." Hearing the delightful frontline partnership of Monterose and Sullivan, you'd be amazed that they weren't offered to make a string of records for Blue Note. In fact, Monterose made only one other record in the 50s (The Message -- see my review), and just a handful of recordings as a leader in his lifetime. Now that "J.R. Monterose" is widely available in the RVG series, do yourself a favor, and get a CD that collectors have been coveting for years."
Eponymous, no longer anonymous
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 09/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like many collectors, I've cut down on CD purchases, but this eponymous recording by the near-anonymous tenor man J. R. Monterose (not to be confused with Jack Montrose, despite similarities beyond their names) is one I've had my eyes on for years, so it's gratifying to finally have my hands on it. In some respects, the audio is sub-par for a Van Gelder remaster (the drums of Philly Joe, bass of Wilber Ware, and piano of Silver are not as forward in the mix as is the norm on the sound canvases created by the former optometrist). But, more importantly, the remastering has returned to circulation a strong and valuable session that was out of print, at one point for a stretch of almost twenty years.
There's not a whole lot of Monterose on record, but his is certainly a distinctive, original voice. Hard-edged, definitive, as rough and occasionally ragged as it is tough and determined. On a later session ("The Messenger") he would sound fuller, more lyrical and melodic (partly, I suspect, because of the influence of hard bop's foremost "pianist-poet," Tommy Flanagan). Here he's frequently Monkish, punching and slashing like a musical street fighter, using a staccato attack, placing his notes in unexpected places, and at times ("The Third," "Bobbie Pin"), leaving enough space between notes to qualify as one of the music's more pointillistic improvisers.
Every bit as engaging as Monterose are the solos of Ira Sullivan. Some listeners will be disappointed to discover that the multi-instrumentalist refrains from picking up a tenor and going head to head with J. R., but if memory serves me right, this recording came out at approximately the same time as Ira's debut on ABC Paramount, "Billy Taylor Presents Ira Sullivan," on which the prodigious horn man (who would soon be hired by Art Blakey to play tenor sax with the Jazz Messengers) sticks to trumpet throughout the entire session. All the same, I've never heard him sound better than on the present date. Whether he's connecting his phrases in a legato manner or taking his cue from Monterose, as on the aforementioned "The Third," and demonstrating all of the ways a single note can be articulated, bent, and inflected, he's a well of creativity and inexhaustible ideas.
Silver is comparatively restrained throughout the date (I'm accustomed to hearing his rumbling, stabbing left hand in the lower register, but perhaps that was his first line of defense against Blakey's bombs-away accompaniment). Philly Joe is, as usual, a masterful bebop player, picking up on the melodic ideas of the others and either building on them or contributing his own. More than a swinger (always welcome by itself) or supplier of a Roach/Elvin polyrhythmic undercurrent, he's a drummer who can be counted on to join the conversation up front. Wilbur Ware is a bassist who repays the listener's close attention, which is important to know because initially he can sound simple, even plain. But his note choices and spare but unique rhythmic contributions, even during a primarily walking-bass solo, are distinctive and always identifiable, light and high-spirited yet never the least bit distracting from the main business at hand. If only there a few more bassists like him, especially now that the bass has become a marquee player, demanding as much solo space as the other players.
None of the tunes strikes me (not yet, anyway) as particularly memorable, though each is full of motifs and harmonies that serve up thematic ideas for the ensuing solos. Perhaps Monterose's own "Wee-Jay" (there's even an additional, alternate take) is the weakest of the bunch, since it's close enough to its inspiration, "Out of Nowhere," to make a listener question the need for a make-over. But upon closer inspection, it's what J. R. does with the rhythmic aspects of the melody, especially his use of repetition, that positions all hands to take a different approach to an otherwise overplayed, possibly played-out, standard and former Bird chestnut.
[Some of the other testimonials to the singular greatness of J. R. strike me as a tad hyperbolic (reminiscent of the deification of Tina Brooks) , though his, like Ornette's, is inarguably a distinctive voice. But so are those of, say, Harold Land or Hank Mobley or Sonny Stitt, all of whom, while perennially ignored in various "hall-of-fame" polls, are immediately identifiable while remaining firmly within a tradition that might be considered more conventional. Their individual greatness emerges because each comes close to attaining "perfection," time and time again. Unlike Ornette, and like Coltrane, J. R. demonstrates his ability to handle the Parker vocabulary, which makes his departures from it seem all the more valid. For a more deferential-sounding Monterose, check him out on the double album, "Kenny Dorham Live at the Cafe Bohemia."]"