Thelonious Monk: Brilliant Corners & Monk 'Round the World

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The path by which legendary pianist and composer Thelonious Monk rose to infamy was a long and trying one. So unique and progressive were Monk's gifts that it took the jazz community what now seems like an eternity to catch on to his brilliance. But all that's history, leaving us now to ruminate upon each of Monk's creative offerings as single elements contributing to the whole from one of the music's most important and enigmatic figures.

Thelonious Monk
Brilliant Corners
2004 (1956)

With the recent arrivals of a Super-Audio CD version of his classic Brilliant Corners and the live compilation of previously unreleased performances, Monk 'Round the World , listeners are treated to two radically different periods in the late pianist's singular career. The first dates back to a time of great need and frustration for Monk, while the second documents a master at the apex of his powers and fame. And though both albums proffer single pieces to the Monk puzzle, their true significance lies within the music.

When Brilliant Corners (1956) was recorded, it marked one of the first unobstructed views at Monk's music. Included in the set were five glowing cuts, each more Monk than the next and supported by an allstar crew: saxophonist Sonny Rollins, trumpet great Clark Terry, bassists Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers, and the inimitable Max Roach on traps. Pieces like "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are," "Pannonica," and "Bemsha Swing" were soon to become classics and their creator—after years of relative anonymity—was at last on the cusp of well-deserved acceptance and acclaim. The remastered version presents this historic session in all its pioneering glory, uncut and digitally crispened. And though the music has long been part of the past, Brilliant Corners enjoys the same poignancy today as it did when first unleashed on the world.

Thelonious Monk
Monk 'Round the World
Hyena Records
2004 (1960s)

Flash forward to the early '60s. Monk has ascended to his rightful place among the greatest living jazzmen. His quartet circles the globe, playing to full houses of expectant admirers. Monk 'Round the World covers what is arguably the pianist's most prosperous period. Heard alongside such stalwarts as bassists Larry Gales and John Ore, drummers Ben Riley and Frankie Dunlop and longtime collaborator Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Monk regales this disc with some of his most celebrated numbers, performed in cities far and wide, including Monterey, Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm. "Blue Monk," "Ruby My Dear" and "Epistrophy" all shine with Monk's own personal touch. And if that weren't enough, the CD is accompanied by a DVD with three pieces ("Rhythm-A-Ning," "Nutty" and "Criss Cross") filmed at a London concert in 1965.

Brilliant Corners

Tracks: 1. Brilliant Corners (7:47); 2. Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are (13:21); 3. Pannonica (8:52); 4. I Surrender, Dear (5:27); 5. Bemsha Swing (7:41).
Personnel: Paul Chambers: Bass; Ernie Henry: Alto Sax; Thelonious Monk: Piano, Celeste Oscar Pettiford: Bass; Max Roach: Drums; Sonny Rollins: Tenor Saxophone; Clark Terry: Trumpet.

Monk 'Round the World

Tracks: 1. Epistrophy; 2. Blue Monk; 3. Ruby My Dear; 4. Rhythm a Ning; 5. Bemsha Swing; 6. Hackensack; 7. Epistrophy (Closing Theme); 8. Rhythm a Ning; 9. Nutty; 10. Criss Cross;
Personnel: Thelonious Monk: Piano; Frankie Dunlop: Drums; Larry "Lonnie" Gales: Bass; John Ore: Bass; Ben Riley: Drums; Charlie Rouse: Tenor Sax; Butch Warren: Bass.

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