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on 2 June 2001
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.
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on 19 December 2011
Monk made a succession of albums for Riverside from 1955 to the beginning of the sixties and they are what established his reputation as one of the great figures of modern jazz. He had been around for years, but had always been regarded as an oddball, playing enormously difficult and usually unattractive music. When he signed for Riverside, Orrin Keepnews, the A'n R man for the label, set about organizing a number of dates featuring Monk in varied company. Almost all were successful, and Keepnews had triumphed in the almost impossible task of showcasing Monk in varied settings without ever compromising his integrity. The records form the pinnacle of the musical career of one of the jazz greats.
This is one of the best of them. Monk is accompanied by Ernie Henry on alto (replaced on 'Bemsha Swing' by Clark Terry), Sonny Rollins on tenor. Oscar Pettiford on bass and Max Roach on drums. All play well. Henry was a little known musician who had recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1948 and then disappeared from view until 1956 when he recorded a few times and then disappeared again. Had circumstances been different he could have been one of the greats. Here he solos in an angular, hard blown style that fits perfectly with Monk. Rollins had a slightly difficult relationship with Monk, at least in musical terms, often soloing in a fairly subdued manner, at other times battling with Monk for dominance. Here he plays at his best with Monk, forceful, inventive, and not allowing himself to be dominated. Pettiford plays superbly, precise and swinging throughout. Max Roach, not my favourite drummer plays well, never quiet but never taking the music over as he could tend to do. He solos on most tracks, but never at undue length. He plays tympani as well as his drums on 'Bemsha Swing' and is a bit overbearing but helps give the tune an effective lurching quality. Clark Terry, not the trumpeter you would expect, plays well on this track and sounds wholly at home.
Of the other tunes, 'Brilliant Corners' is difficult, with repeated changes in tempo, but wholly successful. 'Balue Bolivar' is a medium slow blues, 'Pannonica' a slow Monk mood piece where Monk occasionally ventures onto the celeste, and 'I Surrender, Dear' a piano solo. All work well.
This is among the most significant jazz since the war, and well repays investigation.
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on 28 September 2009
I must admit that before purchasing this album, I'd never heard much of Thelonius Monk's music, although I was vaguely aware that jazz musicians did revere him. Credited with a key role in the invention of bebop, this record sees him back at his best following a period in the doldrums.

Monk's group for this disc contained Sonny Rollins (a name with which I was much more familiar), but personnel changes were prevalent throughout the record, mainly because of the near impossibility of the title track. Jarring notes and tempo changes hit at what follows over the rest of the record, although the simplicity of piano only "I surrender dear," the only non-original on the record, suggests that Monk had a wonderful grasp and feel for many types of music. It proves that he was not a slave to the dizzying harmonics of bebop.

Not always an easy listen, but for anyone serious about jazz it is an essential recording. The extra track is an aborted attempt at "Pannonica" containg only the first chorus. The mastering throughout is excellent.
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on 28 September 2013
Am I the only one irritated by these enticingly priced, deceptively packaged (to look like the original) re-issues that contain no liner notes whatsoever? You expect it with the '4-8 Original Albums Classics' compilations of various deceased legends which give a very good overview of the artist's work at a bargain basement price; but with an individual classic like this it really smacks of greed and a total lack of interest on the part of the issuer. So to hall with hellmark and their business model. Join the cause and boycott this shoddy affair!
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on 19 April 2002
This is a very mysterious CD. Thelonious Monk is a revered jazz musician and composer, he is an influence of gigantic proportions, The Rough Guide to Jazz recommends this album but for all that, somehow, I cannot bring myself to like it. Perhaps it is too intellectual for me, I like my music to swing and this does not and yet most of the personnel can and do swing on other recordings.
The strangest thing of all is I have to keep listening to it and perhaps in an odd way I am coming to appreciate it. Is it possible to appreciate music without enjoying it? Could it be that appreciation, understanding and enjoyment follow one another? I hope so because these are top jazz musicians playing music I don't really understand but I feel in re-listening my time will be well spent and rewarded; for that reason alone this CD deserves its place in my collection.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 October 2013
Thelonius Monk as an artist has few parallels in jazz. The nearest might be Charlie Mingus. Both men wholly individual in their approach, producing music that frequently challenged the listener but always rewarded those who where willing to make the effort to understand the respective artists intentions. Remembering of course, that both artists were often considered' difficult' and that they had to wait for their 'time' to come as like many a true genius, the public and the critical fraternity frequently took their time to realise what they have before them. Monk is all about life, but life on his terms,where inspired creation goes in union with an ability to draw the very best from his players and himself.

'Brilliant Corners' from 1956 marks the arrival of Monk on the scene. His group on this recording consisted of established players-Sonny Rollins, Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach etc who were sufficiently capable and adventurous to understand what the errant genius had in mind in his often very complex music. 'Brilliant Corners' is a wonderful introduction to Monk. Jazz fans have always revered this album because it manages to combine outstanding playing with some inspiring but often eccentric tunes. Take 'Pannonica', a lovely ballad that plays host to a beautiful solo from saxophonist Rollins that precedes the delicate tinkling of Monk on the Celeste, altogether captivating. Topping that perhaps, might be the classic piano solo 'I, Surrender Dear', a piece that somehow combines romantic melody with jaw dropping technique and a general playfulness without ever descending into being a convoluted technical exercise.

This is a cornerstone recording for any jazz collection, big or small. Invest now. You'll not be sorry!
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on 4 April 2014
Regarding the music of this classic Monk album see the other 5 star reviews, I would like to add that the 'Keepnews Collection' edition of this CD is far superior to my old 'Original Jazz Classics' version in terms of sound quality
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on 13 April 2015
Yet another great 2LP 180g vinyl re-issue! So good to see classic jazz albums like these available in quality pressings - the sound is superb & and you would not believe the original recordings are over 50 years old. Big thank you to Not Now Music (and Dodax-online for great service and even better prices - a top seller!) As for the music - well, Monk is not everyone's cup of tea but if he floats your boat this is a must have package.
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on 3 May 2016
It's a shame there's only 5 stars available; it deserves many more.
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on 17 January 2016
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