0010. Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners [1957]

“I wasn’t trying to create something that would be hard to play. I just composed music that fit with how I was thinking. I knew musicians would dig it, because it sounded good.” – Thelonious Monk, 1965

An amusing anecdote for ya: back in college during Music History class, a musician I knew criticized Monk, saying he was a poor musician who played sour notes. He really couldn’t get into him; I’m not even sure he tried all that hard.

I didn’t have to try hard to get into it.  Honestly, most jazz just feels right to me.  I often find myself envisioning a low-lit jazz club, watching the musicians play their hearts out, with me just sitting there transfixed. I’m pretty sure I said the same thing in Music History class three years ago, actually. By no means do I feel qualified to say I “understand,” all of what’s going on in the various jazz records I’ve listened to, but I do know that I like ’em. I should also note that I have no intentions of just passively accepting every jazz song/album that I hear. I’m my own most eager pupil and most enthusiastic teacher and frankly, class is pretty much always in session.

Anyway, Thelonious Monk is, without a doubt, another one of those big names in jazz that if you were/are looking for a good introduction to the genre, it’d be hard to go wrong with anything in his catalog. I hope if you take the time to check it out that you enjoy it like I did, do and will.

From Wikipedia:

Brilliant Corners is a 1957 album by jazz musician Thelonious Monk. It was his third album for theRiverside label and the first, for this label, to include his own compositions. The complex title track required over a dozen takes in the studio, and is considered one of his most difficult compositions.

In 2003, it was one of fifty recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to theNational Recording Registry. It has also been included in the reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, with reviewer Andrew Gilbert saying it “marked Monk’s return as composer of the first order.” Because of its historical significance the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

The track “Pannonica” is named for Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a close friend of Monk’s.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Thelonious Monk except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. “Brilliant Corners” 7:42
2. “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues Are” 13:24
3. “Pannonica” 8:50
4. I Surrender, Dear” (Harry Barris) 5:25
5. Bemsha Swing” (Thelonious Monk, Denzil Best) 7:42


  • Orrin Keepnews — producer
  • Jack Higgins — engineer
  • Joe Tarantino — mastering

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