1001 Albums: Brilliant Corners



Artist: Thelonious Monk

Album: Brilliant Corners

Year: 1957

Length: 42:47

“badumdumdadumdadumdumdudaumdum” (Kickass Bass solo)

Woah! Look at me, I’ve hit the double digits! Number 10 it is, quite the milestone, will be a little longer until I hit triple digits but at least I know I’m making my way through at a steady pace. One day I’ll get there but for now I will celebrate my arrival to the double digits.

That’s it.

So, here we go again, another jazz styled, 100% instrumental album (thanks for that, couldn’t get another damn quote for the start). Remember the last post when I said I was loving Big Band Swing way mroe than I thought and for a few albums I would ramble about how much Jazz was so great? I think I may have spoke too soon. Of what I’ve come to understand this style of jazz is known as Hard Bop and… for me at least, it was a little difficult to listen to. Not because it was bad (I don’t think it was…) but because it was… difficult to listen to. Ok I realise that doesn’t really explain it, so I’ll try my best to give an idea of what I mean.

Remember the scene from Spinal Tap where they’re performing at an amusement park and decide to do some free-form jazz number led by the bassist? If you do then you know what I mean, If you don’t then you really need to go out and watch Spinal Tap because it is one of the greatest comedies of all time.

The music isn’t bad but it’s not really accessible to the average listener. I can see some jazz aficionado snobs listening to this in velvet arm chairs, guzzling glasses of cognac and twirling their moustaches, enjoying every minute of it and proclaiming how genius this album is. But, I can also see the regular person being a little put off by the complex arrangements, the sudden time changes and bar changes, the seemingly random clanking of the piano (to untrained ears that is… like mine).

This is one of those moments where I wish I knew way more about music than I actually do. For the most part, I’ve been able to pinpoint what makes the albums great, but because this is some sub-genre of jazz I barely know and mostly instrumental, I feel like I have no idea what I can say that makes this so great. Remember I’m doing this as a lover of music not as an expert. I will say this, this makes me want to study music and take courses so I can understand it much better, so when an album like this comes along I can confidently break it down and talk about it.

I do know this, it had one kick-ass bass solo in it. Finally, the bass is getting some recognition as being a bad-ass album and the second song on the album let’s it take the spotlight for a good chunk of time and just let’s the bass riff away, one low note after another. It was beautiful, I love the bass, I especially love a well utilised bass. Nothing worse than a bass that barely does anything or is barely audible, drowned out by the other instruments. I’m a solid believer in the phrase “CRANK UP THE BASS!”. (is it a saying? probably not, but it is now).

On that note (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH… no?) I’m curious to know what goes into actually creating these types of jazz compositions. Is each note incredibly well-planned out or do they improvise a lot? I know jazz is a handy style for music improvisation and listening to it… I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of it may have been improvised. But to what point is it actually improvised and planned? where is the line drawn between the two? How blurred is this line? Do they possibly just make it up as they go, sit in the booth and say “Play whatever you want”, fart out some notes and then go “was great”? huh? HUH? HUH?!?!?!

While I’m asking questions, here’s a big one: How do they come up with the names of their songs? Where do any of the names come from? Brilliant Corners? Why Brilliant Corners? What makes the corners so brilliant? How does this song reflect anything about corners and their brilliance? Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are? What does that even mean? Pannonica? I Surrender, My Dear? Bemsha Swing? (ok that last one makes the most sense). But I’m serious, how do these jazz musicians come up with the name for their songs when its about ten minutes of complicated arrangements that sound like a random assortment of notes to the untrained ear and sometimes changes in mood and style a bunch of times as the running time goes by? Are the names purely random a well? Was Thelonious sitting in a nice room that just had the greatest corners he had ever seen and while recording he was like ” Damn these corners be brilliant” and everyone was like “Yeah, Brilliant corners, good name for a track, let’s lay it down” and through that the whole song was inspired and they went from there?

See… this is what happens when I have no idea what I’m talking about. I start to over analyze things that don’t really matter instead of what’s important: The Music.

I might revisit this album in the future, once I talk to some jazz expert and learn all about jazz, so at least I can have a better understanding of all this. But in the meantime, you can check it out and tell me your thoughts if you want. It was definitely an experience for me listening to it and it further pushed my pursuit of knowledge, especially in music, so I will give it credit for that.

Geez… even when I don’t know what to say about it, Jazz has me rambling on. DAMN YOU JAZZ! You beautiful… beautiful thing.


Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco


One thought on “1001 Albums: Brilliant Corners”

  1. “I’m curious to know what goes into actually creating these types of jazz compositions. Is each note incredibly well-planned out or do they improvise a lot?”

    Often times in jazz compositions, you’ll have bars of concrete written melodies or movements that the whole band is meant to play. At other times, there’ll be bars of music where the only constrictions are key- and time-signatures; during these stretches of time, certain instruments will be granted permission to perform solos for an indeterminate amount of bars (usually decided by the conductor on the spot) while the rhythm section sticks to a certain rubric of repetitions (with room for minor diversions). Those solos are sometimes completely improvised while at other times they are heavily rehearsed (if not partly written). Also, the conductor can control the speed anytime he/she wishes.

    Or at least that’s how I remember it from high school stage band. *shrug*


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s