Thelonious Monk “Brilliant Corners” (1956)

Track Selection 1: Brilliant Corners

Track Selection 2: Pannonica


Ernie Henry (as) Sonny Rollins (ts) Thelonious Monk (p, and Celeste on Pannonica) Oscar Pettiford (b) Max Roach (d) NYC, October 15 & 9, 1956


Monk at his most brilliant, in Brilliant Corners. Even Rollins claimed it was impossible to play. Time signatures like a learner driver failing his driving test, lurching into first, third, emergency stop, hill start, and a nagging pungent tune that won’t go away. It is everything a lot of popular music today isn’t. Unpredictable, but scored and structured unpredictability rather than the randomness of free jazz.

A double helping, with a second track Pannonica, obviously named after a well-known brand of camera. Product placement as early as 1956. Monk doubles up on celeste to add texture to the bluesy Ellingtonian ballad.

If you don’t get Monk, don’t worry, Monk will get you.

Vinyl:  Riverside RLP 12-226

DG, mono, no UK copyright details on the song titles, Lacking the usual “Distributed by Interdisk” note on the cover which usually denotes a British pressing. Looks like an original US copy but  who knows, with dual nationality patents in the runout.

The cover is a marvel.


British or US pressing? Those patents,  what can they mean? What is patent about a record.

Cover looks like the original US version.

Collectors Corner

Put out in a London store for only £7 It plays a lot better than it looks. Judging from the skating rink around the spindle it was often played record. There is some surface noise and a few brief tics and pops and  but with Monk, you could say they enhance the time signatures – sort of polyrhythmic special effects. The dealer should know, most of the scuffs are entirely superficial, as they can’t be felt, but I guess it’s a double take – thinking what a punter will think, hence the giveaway price. Which suited me fine – thats often where bargains are to be found.


8 thoughts on “Thelonious Monk “Brilliant Corners” (1956)

  1. Pannonica is named after his friend and Rothchild heiress, Pannonica de Koenigswarter

    LJC comment:

    British humour seems not to travel well, so let me unpick the joke.

    It is self-effacing humour, in which the bumbling but pretentious jazz critic LJC mistakes Pannonica for a make of camera, which is itself a mistake

    “Pannonica” is an unusual name, hence reconstructed in faux-ignorance from some Japanese camera brands “Panasonic”, “Canon” and “Konica”, which all have some elements of the name “Pannonica”.

    The character LJC is ignorant of the Baroness de Koenigswarter’s first name, and he wrongly confuses it with camera brands that sounds similar.

    It is a double-takedown, he is unmasked, a tragi-comic figure of fun who gets everything wrong, who doesn’t realise it and carries on regardless. It is in the long tradition of the clown in comedy.

    I appreciate the intention of adding information.


  2. Those patent numbers indicate a West Coast manufactured LP. Research Craft in California pressed this example. They usually made very good pressings. Should be less noisy than a East Coast example.

  3. I was lucky enough to pick up an original US copy a few moths back in NM condition for $30 dollars. This session is fantastic.

  4. Nice find! I have one question. Does your pressing contain that charming little piano intro on “Blue Bolivar Blues”, before the horns come in? It was subsequently removed from all pressings and it has been chopped off the master tapes, too! When Keepnews brought out that big Complete Monk set in the mid 80’s, he needledropped that section from one of his original crackly first pressings and edited it on again, but it has not appeared on record ever since, including that recent 45-r.p.m. pressing!


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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