Brilliant Corners

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Year: 1957

Genre: Hard Bop

Grade: A+

I’ve listened to Brilliant Corners a lot. It grows on me each time, but forever remains elusive. And that’s the beauty of it. Something new reveals itself only to leave me in awe of something else that I had never noticed. It’s both Thelonious Monk’s most accessible album and his most ambiguous. Misterioso is a more fitting title.

Then again, “brilliant corners” is a perfect descriptor. The music is full of jaded edges and sharp, pointy exteriors. But, like the five smiling Monk’s on the album cover, the space between is filled with jovial excitement.

“Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are,”Bemsha Swing” and the complex title track are blues-based, hard bop tunes of the highest order. But it is “Pannonica” and “I Surrender, Dear” that truly make Brilliant Corners a timeless masterpiece. One is a surreal ballad led by dreamy celesta; the other is among the greatest solo piano pieces in the jazz repertoire.

It’s no question that this is Monk’s greatest album, which therefore makes it one of jazz music’s most profound musical statements.

 

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