Home  |  Audio Reviews  Audiophile Shows Partner Mags  News     

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Thelonious Monk
Brilliant Corners

Review By Phil Gold
Click here to e-mail reviewer

  Brilliant Corners is a seminal 1956 recording from Thelonoius Monk, his first disc of original material on the Riverside label. The special attraction this time around is the SACD remastering. I'll touch on that later. For now, let's concentrate on the music. And what music!

This may not be Monk's masterpiece – I fancy that honor must now go to the newly discovered Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall [Blue Note 9463351742] but it is indispensable for Monk aficionado and for any modern jazz fan willing to listen repeatedly to music which may at first hearing appear user-hostile. Monk tends to polarize his listeners more than any other artist of his time. Me – I'm smitten. While I can admire Art Tatum, I don't really enjoy him for all his extreme virtuosity. But Monk hits the spot for me, the very essence of cool, although I will admit he doesn't do so 100 percent of the time.

There are two facets on display here – Monk the composer and Monk the pianist. As a composer there has never been anyone like him while as a pianist... well I'd have to say the same again. But Monk playing Monk is a hit right out of the park in terms of quirkiness, originality, a challenge to his fellow musicians, and a challenge to us the listeners.

The title track "Brilliant Corners" proved an enormous trial to the performers, requiring over two dozen takes, with the best bits stitched together into 7m42s of rapidly morphing time signatures, splendid unison playing from the saxes of Sonny Rollins and Ernie Henry, astonishing chord progressions and punctuation from Monk against the rock solid rhythm section of Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach.

The extended swing-blues number "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" lets you hear all the musicians in their groove, enjoying themselves. The highlight is Pettiford walking bass solo, so natural, subtle, tuneful and alert to all the possibility of Monk's composition. Monk's sparse pianism contributes greatly during the other musicians' solos. Monk has one hand on the piano and the other on a celeste in the ballad "Pannonica." This one doesn't work for me, although you may just love it.

Monk solos on "I Surrender, Dear," the only number here he didn't pen. He sounds like a pianist with a stutter, fracturing the tune and never letting it flow the way Errol Garner or Oscar Peterson might. This just serves to heighten the tension and keeps us on the edge of our seats, willing him on. The last two bars, where you might expect the tune to finally resolve, are splendidly original and leave you hanging mid air. Just wonderful – play it again and again.

The disc closes with the familiar "Bemsha Swing," the third time he had recorded it. This is the feel-good track and features Clerk Terry and Paul Chambers to replace the absent Henry and Pettiford. No extended solos this time, but Rollins plays superbly, matched by a surprisingly focused Terry. The highlight here is the Syncopated timpani playing throughout and Roaches duets with Monk and Chambers in turn. Killer!

I've been comparing this mono SACD to the standard Riverside CD. Both are a bit thin and lack warmth but the SACD does two things much better than the CD, and the CD layer on this hybrid disc. First, Pettiford's bass is much clearer and more tuneful, remarkable in fact for the vintage. Second, the percussion loses its harsh even brittle edge and becomes much more resolved. This is never going to be a demonstration disc, but even if you have the CD I'd recommend forking out for this one. If you don't have Brilliant Corners in your collection at all, well it simply isn't complete yet. An essential recording.






Historic Value:











































Quick Links

Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews


Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews


Enjoy the Music.TV


Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles

Show Reports
Pacific Audio Fest 2022 Report
T.H.E. Show 2022 Report
HIGH END Munich 2022
AXPONA 2022 Show Report
CanJam Singapore 2022 Report
Salon Audio Montréal Audiofest 2022
Florida Audio Expo 2022
AudioCon Los Angeles 2022
Capital Audiofest 2021 Show
The HiFi Summit Q2 2021
T.H.E. Show 2021 Report
The HiFi Summit Q4 2020
The HiFi Summit Q2 2020
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Report 2020
Click here for previous shows.


Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty


Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information


Partner Print Magazines
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
The Absolute Sound
VALVE Magazine


For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics


Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!




Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us


All contents copyright©  1995 - 2022  HighEndAudio.com and Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.