Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners (1957)

Brilliant Corners is a studio album by American jazz musician Thelonious Monk. It was his third album for Riverside Records, and the first, for this label, to include his own compositions. The album was recorded in three sessions in late 1956 with two different quintets. “Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-Are” and “Pannonica”, on which Monk played the celeste, were recorded on October 9 with saxophonists Ernie Henry and Sonny Rollins, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Max Roach. The former composition was titled as a phonetic rendering of Monk’s exaggerated pronunciation of “Blue Bolivar Blues”, which referred to the Bolivar Hotel where Pannonica de Koenigswarter resided; Monk had met her during his first trip to Europe in 1954.

On October 15, Monk attempted to record the title track with the same band during a four-hour session. The complexity of the title track became a challenge for Monk’s sidemen, who attempted twenty-five takes, and led to tension between him and Henry, who nearly broke down mentally, and Pettiford, who exchanged harsh words with Monk during the session. Monk tried to make it easier on Henry by not playing during his alto solo. During one of the takes, producer Orrin Keepnews and others in the control room could not hear Pettiford’s playing and checked his bass microphone for a malfunction, but ultimately realized that he was pantomiming his playing. Without a completed single take, Keepnews ultimately pieced together the album version from multiple takes.

Track Listing:

Side One

Brilliant Corners – 7:42
Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are – 13:24

Side Two

Pannonica – 8:50
I Surrender, Dear (Harry Barris) – 5:25
Bemsha Swing (Thelonious Monk, Denzil Best) – 7:42

Notes: This may be one of, if not the perfect jazz album. For anyone that does not like jazz, or thinks they don’t like jazz, this would be the album to start with

Schill Score: 9.25/10

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