Wednesday, October 03, 2007

1001 Albums – Number 10

Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners

So far the best thing I've gained from listening to these albums has been a bit of an introduction to mainstream jazz. Some of it hasn't worked for me but mostly it has been very worthwhile and we can now add a second name to the 'pretty damn awesome' list (after Ellington).

On Brilliant Corners Monk assembles a small jazz ensemble: drums, bass, sax, trumpet and Thelonious himself on piano in order to play some baffling, complicated music. At first it seems like standard cool jazz. The mood may be warm and intimate but before long you'll notice the continued intrusion of deliberate dissonance and arrhythmia, so gracefully composed that it almost doesn't register as such to one's ears.

The centrepiece of the songs is Monk's piano, although the degree of this focus ranges between songs. 'I Surrender, Dear' is a solo piece for keys, while all the other songs break the seven minute mark and give ample attention to the rest of the band.

As both a performer and a composer Monk is something special. His style is based around an aggressive, staccato way of stabbing the keys in a deliberately counter-rhythmic way, and his melodies have a noncommital relationship with tonality. The miracle of his music is that despite such a difficult approach the result is still upbeat and easy to listen to while also being rewarding to the careful listener. Definitely a keeper.

Next up, Sabu Martinez.


Skarnz said...

Surely he gets additional points for having a cool name.

Dunno why, but its cool

Jon said...

Absolutely, it's a very cool name. Apparently he was an obnoxious nutcase in person though.