Selection 1: Brilliant Corners (London label, Decca Pressing) 320kbps MP3
Artists: Ernie Henry (alto saxophone) Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone) Thelonious Monk (piano) Oscar Pettiford (bass) Max Roach (drums) recorded Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, October 15, 1956
Bonus track – Selection 2: Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are (London label, Decca Pressing) 320 kbps MP3
Artists: Ernie Henry (alto saxophone) Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone) Thelonious Monk (piano) Oscar Pettiford (bass) Max Roach (drums) recorded Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, October 9, 1956
I’ll hand this one over to Guardian jazz critic John Fordham’s review, which is much more articulate than that what I would like have written, so I quote in full:
Brilliant Corners, recorded for the Riverside label in 1956 with an A-list band including saxophonist Sonny Rollins and former Charlie Parker drummer Max Roach, was the most compositionally ambitious session in the former church pianist’s decade-long jazz career thus far. In a legendarily fractious session, the title track’s growling theme was so treacherous in its lurching phrasing and abrupt time changes that a band this good still spent 25 takes on it, and the final version was only possible by splicing two takes together. But Brilliant Corners was no calculated technical highwire act, but a piece of audaciously adventurous composing that has never lost its power to startle and seduce over the decades.
From Monk’s opening stabbed chords (as if he were chipping rock) to the bone-shaking notes, guttural horn harmonies and sudden thematic gallops, Brilliant Corners is gripping – as are the composer’s jangling improvisations, and Rollins’s lazily unfolding and huge-toned tenor solo. The session’s full of captivating variety too – from the urban graininess of Hornin’ In to the relaxed groove of Let’s Cool One, the surreal mix of Monk’s chordal bluntness and the coyness of a glockenspiel on Pannonica to the bleary rootsiness of the wonderful blues Ba Lue Bolivar Ba Lues Are. Arriving just before the late-50s free-jazz upheavals of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor, this was music that showed just how powerfully song-form harmonies and the tempered scale could be wrenched into new shapes.
I can only agree.
Vinyl: London LTZ-U 15097 UK release of Riverside RLP 226 pressing Decca, New Malden. The Best of British:
Alternative cover. Better? No, I don’t think so. Why change a brilliant cover?? But the mastering and pressing…the mighty Decca, New Malden…
US Riverside original cover (US cover much better. Case dismissed)
Vinyl: Riverside RLP 226 – New York pressing, Abbey Manufacturing NJ. ( pushed up gain by 20% to compensate for a very quiet recording)
Selection: Brilliant Corners Riverside US pressing – 320kbps MP3
US “original” sounds better?
Not on my system, long way short. The Decca flows effortlessly, is more musical, more pleasurable to follow Monk’s jack-rabbit assault on the keyboard, sit back and hear Rollins and Henry struggling on their 25th take of Monk’s fiendish composition. The Riverside is limp, trailing, dragging, entirely lacking in the fierce malevolent alto/tenor brass of Henry and Rollins.
The London/ Decca press takes this brilliant corner to a higher plane. Only my opinion of course. You may disagree.
First blogged the Riverside edition of Brilliant Corners nearly exactly two years ago, April 19, 2012. My, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun. This UK edition turned up and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to put my “original is best” maxim to the test. As usual, a surprise was just around the corner.
Located in the south London suburb of New Malden, Decca’s first class engineering skills were honed on the recording and pressing of classical music, strengthened by the consumption of many cups of strong tea throughout the day, and the occasional sticky bun from the factory trolley.
I imagine 1950’s suburban New Jersey to be an only slightly more exciting. No reason why Riverside engineering supported by many cups of strong coffee and the occasional Danish shouldn’t translate into a superior original pressing. But the theory is often confounded by the annoying contrary nature of the facts.
Postscript: WordPress music player
Progress! It’s about two years since I asked WordPress to fix its embedded music player but they have finally done it.. It is now a natty column-width player, in black, which displays the track length, progress bar, and elapsed /remaining time and volume control. That’s nice.
I have a second US copy of Brilliant Corners, which is a Research Craft West Coast pressing. Labels here below, smaller size label, deep groove, no Inc. US/GB patent stamps
Like the other copy, both are not first original, but later pressings. The West Coast Research Craft matrices above are straight -A and -B, whereas the NY Abbey Manufacturing pressing featured in the post has matrices -A-PR1 and -B2. Clearly somebody did something locally but they both look like they date from the same period somewhere in the late 50’s early ’60s before the “INC” was added to “BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS”
This is a reminder to me to do more homework on the Riverside label. The wheels are coming off my trolley fast.
Postscript 2: Two different addresses on the liner notes, with earlier and later titles promoted.
The West Coast pressing (right) has an earlier set of liner notes with the 553 West address which refers to other early catalogue number Riverside releases existing at the time. The NY Abbey pressing cover has a 235 West address and a later set of liner notes which refer to later Riverside titles.
Geek or what?