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The Best Tenor You Never Heard: J.R. Monterose

JRJ.R. Monterose is a saxophonist rarely heard even by jazz fans, and his most well-known recording, Charles MingusPithecanthropus Erectus, is one that Monterose himself later all but disowned. He recorded only sporadically as a leader and withdrew from the jazz world several times, woodshedding or playing in towns distant from the music’s metropolitan centers. His sound, although influenced by other tenor horns such as Chu Berry and Sonny Rollins, 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.

Monterose was active as a sideman during the mid-1950s (a full discography of his career can be viewed here), playing and recording with Mingus, vibraphonist Teddy Charles, pianist George Wallington, and trumpeter Kenny Dorham. We’ll hear several of those recordings and others from dates led by Monterose himself, up to the 1964 album In Action.

Music Heard On This Episode

In Salah
George Wallington — The Prestidigitator (East/West, 1957)
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In Salah
George Wallington — The Prestidigitator (East/West, 1957)

Notes: With J.R. Monterose on tenor sax. A Mose Allison composition.

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Relaxo Abstracto
Teddy Charles — Evolution (Prestige, 1955)

Notes: With J.R. Monterose on tenor sax (his recording debut).

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Jouons
George Wallington — The Prestidigitator (East/West, 1957)

Notes: With J.R. Monterose on tenor sax. Monterose composition.

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Straight Ahead
J.R. Monterose — The Message (Jaro/Xanadu/Prevue, 1959)

Notes: Monterose composition.

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Violets for Your Furs
J.R. Monterose — The Message (Jaro/Xanadu/Prevue, 1959)

Notes: With Tommy Flanagan on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Pete La Roca on drums (as for above track).

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Green Street
J.R. Monterose — The Message (Jaro/Xanadu/Prevue, 1959)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Hill's Edge (excerpt)
Kenny Dorham — Round Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia (Blue Note, 1956)

Notes: With J.R. Monterose on tenor sax.

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M.T.C.
Rene Thomas — Guitar Groove (Jazzland, 1960)

Notes: With J.R. Monterose on tenor sax. Monterose composition.

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Waltz for Claire
J.R. Monterose — In Action (Bainbridge, 1964)

Notes: Monterose composition.

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Herky Hawks
J.R. Monterose — In Action (Bainbridge, 1964)

Notes: Monterose composition.

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Mark V
J.R. Monterose — J.R. Monterose (Blue Note, 1956)

Notes: J.R. Monterose composition. With Horace Silver on piano, Ira Sullivan on trumpet, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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