J.R. Monterose's first session as a leader was a thoroughly enjoyable set of swinging, straight-ahead bop that revealed him as a saxophonist with a knack for powerful, robust leads in the vein of Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins. With a stellar supporting group of pianist Horace Silver, trumpeter Ira Sullivan, bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer "Philly" Joe Jones, Monterose has recorded a set of bop that swings at a measured pace and offers many delightful moments. Throughout the session, Monterose sounds vigorous, whether he's delivering hard-swinging solos or waxing lyrical. With his bluesy vamps and soulful solos, Silver is equally impressive, while Sullivan's spotlights are alternately punchy and skilled; similarly, the rhythm section is tight, letting the music breathe while keeping the groove. In fact, the quality of the music is so strong, J.R. Monterose qualifies as one of the underappreciated gems in Blue Note's mid-'50s catalog.
J.R. Monterose Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine