Thursday, May 11, 2006

10. Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners (1957)

Track Listing

1. Brilliant Corners
2. Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are
3. Pannonica
4. I Surrender, Dear
5. Bemsha Swing


Thelonious Monk. What an unfortunate name.

Brilliant Corners is a brilliant album. It is not something that you will warm up to on the first play, or even second play. By the third you start seeing something there. I think this is a phenomenon which is common to all extremely proficient and innovative composer/performers. And if anything Thelonious definitely was that. In my opinion he was the best jazz pianist ever, and while better known for composing the famous 'Round Midnight, he has a huge number of compositions, and 4 of the tracks on this album are his.

Nothing here is as easy to listen as 'Round Midnight, nevertheless it is an extremely impressive piece of work. Again this suffers the same problem as the Ellington Live at Newport. The album itself is not overly long, but the tracks at 7.45, 13.09, 8.51, 5.28 and 7.43 minutes respectively are so long, and at times abstract that you get lost on where you are in the album. Of course repeated listenings solve that problem, as you get used to the distinctive style of each track. So again I repeat, this is not an album that you can listen to once and feel that you know it. It demands a different type of engagement than any other album on this list until now.

So, did I like it? Well, as I've said, I did but definitely not at first. Yet now, as Brilliant Corners, the first track, kicks in after the intro with the tentative piano playing, I get a kick. And frankly, it's just a great jazz album. And one worth checking out repeatedly. Get it streaming from Napster for example.

Or buy it at Amazon: UK or US

Track Highlights

1. Brilliant Corners
2. Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are

Final Grade



He was not a Monk.

Thelonious is a character from the Metamorphoses of Ovid

Aren't Corners Brilliant?


Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge Jazz fan myself, but I did like this album. There is some seriously funky stuff going on with the melodies. The title track melody is completely out there. Then they do it again double time...awesome. Monk definitely was pushing the envelope.

It is interesting you mention getting lost in the music. But did you notice that the songs all have similar structures? I don't know the formal Jazz terms but they always had one or two runs of the main melody with the whole band, then each musician took a solo, then a finale with the original melody. That's how i kept track of the music.

-- M1001

Francisco Silva said...


Yesh, but those similar structures don't really help in getting a notion on where you are in the album.

Anonymous said...

the cover art looks way ahead of time.

Anonymous said...

the title track was scary, wierd, creepy, bizarre, and trippy, but fascinating!