THELONIOUS MONK — Brilliant Corners

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THELONIOUS MONK - Brilliant Corners cover
4.55 | 16 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1957

Filed under Hard Bop


A1 Brilliant Corners 7:45
A2 Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are 13:07
B1 Pannonica 8:50
B2 I Surrender, Dear 5:27
B3 Bemsha Swing 7:40

Total Time 42:47


Alto Saxophone – Ernie Henry (tracks: A1, A2, B1)
Bass – Oscar Pettiford (tracks: A1, A2, B1), Paul Chambers (tracks: B3)
Celesta – Thelonious Monk (tracks: B1)
Drums – Max Roach (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B3)
Piano – Thelonious Monk
Tenor Saxophone – Sonny Rollins (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B3)
Timpani – Max Roach (tracks: B3)
Trumpet – Clark Terry (tracks: B3)

About this release

Riverside RLP 12-226

Recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, New York City; October 9 (A2, B1), October 15 (A1) and December 7 (B2, B3), 1956

Thanks to kazuhiro for the addition and EntertheLemming, snobb, js for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Not only is “Brilliant Corners” one of Thelonious Monk’s best albums, but its also considered one of the better recordings in the history of jazz. Don’t expect a lot of fireworks from this one though, instead, most of these blues based tunes are played in laid back medium tempos, or even slower, but do expect maximum creativity and a brilliant ensemble that moves together as one mind. Monk does have a particularly strong crew assembled here, with Sonny Rollins and Max Roach on board, plus Ernie Henry and Oscar Pettiford are no slouches either. Clark Terry and Paul Chambers replace Henry and Pettiford for one cut, but they too are up for the great interplay that goes down on this disc.

The album opens with the title cut “Brilliant Corners”, and what a tour de force this one is. This composition has Monk working with rapidly changing tempos and time signatures, such things may be more common today, but this was fairly new ground in 1957, and “Corners” still sounds very modern and ‘cutting edge’ today. This is followed by the laid back avant-blues of “Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are”. Although “Bolivar” may not be as radical as the album opener, it still leaves plenty of room for ‘Monkish’ off-kilter solos and slippery interactions. Side two opens with the ballad like “Pannonica”, on which Monk plays the delicate bell like celeste. His odd approach to harmony sounds even more peculiar on this keyboard, the resultant exotic sounds might have you thinking that we are now in a universe parallel to Sun Ra.

“I Surrender Dear” is a standard that Monk plays in old school stride style and it is the only non-original piece on the album. Its presence acts as an interesting contrast to the more ‘out there’ aspects of the other numbers. The album closes with the Afro-Carribean flavors of “Bemsha Swing”, on which Max plays rumbling tympanies behind the soloists. Monk’s second solo after the trumpet is just splashes of sound and color, foreshadowing the world of avant-garde jazz that was right around the corner in ‘57. If you want to hear why so many jazz fans get effusive when discussing Thelonious Monk, give this one a spin.

Members reviews

If I made a list of my favorite jazz pianists, Thelonious Monk would be very far down on the list, if on it at all. His tone is terribly sharp and percussive and his style is random and lacks continuity, both of these enhanced by his perceived lack of control over his instrument. Many internet lists rank this as one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, but I could never understand why when first listening through it.

And yet, I keep finding myself coming back to this album. Somehow, through all the unusual twists and turns that this album takes the listener on there is magic present that has a way of sticking with the listener across time. I eventually gave in, and admitted that this is a jazz masterpiece.

The sound of this album is unique from beginning to end. It opens with the title track "Brilliant Corners", a tune that gives the listener a feeling of somebody carrying something heavy. Following that is "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues Are", a blues track that swings slow and heavy as well. "Pannonica" is something really special in my opinion. On this, Thelonious Monk doubles on piano and celesta, which adds a really great sound to this tune. "I Surrender, Dear" begins with Monk playing solo piano the whole time. Despite the fact that Monk's sound is terribly unorthodox, this track holds many creative elements. Ending the album is "Bemsha Swing", a rather catchy medium swing tune where Max Roach adds timpani to the mix, using it to construct a rather interesting drum solo.

It took me months to realize it, but this is a masterpiece. Hopefully others can experience this as I have.

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  • chuckyspell
  • Atomas
  • MoogHead
  • KK58
  • bankstatement
  • Lynx33
  • idlero
  • Ponker
  • EntertheLemming
  • Anster
  • yair0103
  • danielpgz
  • richby
  • Drummer

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