Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Art of the Cover - Thelonious Monk's "Brilliant Corners" (2014)

"Brilliant Corners" may well be considered the alpha and omega of post-World War II American jazz. No serious jazz collection should be without it."
--Lindsay Planer  ... Allmusic

Brilliant Corners is remarkable for bringing together musicians who had established themselves as major jazzmen in their own right and yet gave everything on this date to make an album that from the outset would reflect Monk's peculiar musical world. Perhaps it is Monk's most enduring masterpiece.

The title piece is one of the single major works in the jazz canon. It proved so difficult to play that 25 separate cuts had to be spliced together to produce the final piece. Sonny Rollins was the tenor saxophonist on the date and leading guest musician.

As a teenager, Rollins had rehearsed alongside Monk. His contribution to "Brilliant Corners" was devastating: he acquired a feel for the unusual structure of the piece -abrupt changes of tempo, bombast followed by bathos, sudden diabolical runs, jumps into double time- and became Monk's voice through a horn, while retaining the unmistakeable Rollins attack. And all this drama was held together by the polyrhythmic adaptability of Max Roach, who had played so magnificently with Rollins a few months earlier on Saxophone Colossus.

The rest of the album contains the eccentric blues "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are" (which appears on numerous early 1960s discs, including Monk's Dream, Columbia, 1962), the first recording of "Pannonica", written for the wealthy jazz-lover Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter, in whose New York apartment Charlie Parker had died the year before, "Bemsha Swing", first recorded by Monk in 1952 and on this occasion featuring Duke Ellington's chief trumpeter Clark Terry, and a solo reading of "I Surrender, Dear".

This is an essential modern jazz album.

By Ricard Giner


1. "Brilliant Corners"   7:42

2. "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are"   13:24

3. "Pannonica"   8:50

4. "I Surrender, Dear" (Barry Harris) 5:25

5. "Bemsha Swing" (Thelonious Monk, Denzil Best) 7:42

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