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Old Oct 24, 2008, 08:48 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Jazz Feature for Oct.27: Thelonious Monk: "Brilliant Corners".

Pianist/composer Thelonious Monk and the album "Brilliant Corners" finishes this month's emphasis on classic pivotal recordings BUT as this seems a popular idea with the listeners, The Jazz Show is going to continue on that theme throughout the month of November. As Gavin was unable to be on the air live last Monday (Oct. 20) that Feature will be aired on the November 3rd show and it's the essential Mingus recording with his earth shattering quartet with Eric Dolphy and trumpeter Ted Curson called "Mingus Presents Mingus". Last Oct. 20 would have been the 48th anniversary of that session.
Tonight's Feature is the amazing Monk recording that brought Thelonious back from the limbo of the early 1950's. While Monk was listened to by a small group of fans in the 50's, his recordings for Blue Note and Prestige sold little (today his output for those two labels are considered essential) and because the police had revoked his New York cabaret card after finding traces of pot in a car in which he was a passenger. That denied him the right to work in clubs and bars. In those days a 'cabaret card' was necessary for anyone to work in places that sold alcohol .......that included musicians. Monk had to find work out of town and the pickings were slim. His devoted wife, Nellie kept the family solvent during those times raising their two children and insisting that Thelonious concentrate on his music.
Orrin Keepnews of the then young record label, Riverside, bought out Monk's contract with Prestige for $108.27 and soon put out two fine trio albums with the aim of making Monk more "accessible" to the listening public without compromising Monk's integrity. The two albums sold quite well. The first was "Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington" with bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke and the second was "The Unique Thelonious Monk" featuring a group of Monk chosen standards with Art Blakey replacing Clarke. The third is our Jazz Feature and a Monk block-buster....."Brilliant Corners"....this was the "real deal"..... pure unadulerated Monk playing his own music with his favourite players.
The recording was completed on three dates. Two tunes, "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are" (that's the way Monk pronounced it........it's really just "Blue Bolivar Blues") and "Pannonica", dedicated to the Jazz Baroness, Nica (Pannonica) Rothschild and where Monk plays celeste as well as piano, were completed on one date. Underrated alto saxophonist Ernie Henry was in Monk's working band and Sonny Rollins was Monk's favourite tenor player. They were on the front line. Oscar Pettiford was in Monk's working band and Max Roach was a Monk favourite for the drum chair. The second date was a killer for the band as Monk brought in a brand new piece, 'Brillant Corners'. It was a tough go for the horns and the rhythm section as the composition had tempo changes and all kinds of properties that even these amazing musicians were not able to handle. Not a single 'take' was completed. Sometimes the beginning was fine and the solos were good but the ending was botched and sometimes just the opposite happened. Eventually after using up all the studio time on this one tune Monk and Orrin Keepnews were able to splice a faultless ending to a good front part for the classic track. With three tunes from this ensemble in the can, two more tunes were needed to complete the album. The first three were done in October 1956 and when the December 7 session was scheduled some changes had taken place. Ernie Henry had left Monk to go with Dizzy Gillespie's big band and Monk and Pettiford had a nasty spat so he was out of the picture. Clark Terry was one of Monk's favourite trumpeters and a close friend, so he was brought in in place of Henry and Paul Chambers replaced Pettiford. They recorded only one track, "Bemsha Swing" (co-written with drummer Denzil Best) but it's a beauty (as Don Cherry would say if he were that hip). Max Roach found some tympani in the studio and used them to good effect along with his regular set and Sonny Rollins was in inspired form here. The other track is a piano solo done in one take on the old standard "I Surrender Dear" this is also a gem.
This recording really brought back Monk to the forefront of critical acclaim and was really the beginning of his ascent in the mid-1950's. Soon his cabaret card was restored and his quartet with John Coltrane was just around the corner and the rest, as they say is history.
Join me for the full show at 9pm and the Feature, as usual, will be a little after 11pm..................see you then.
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Old Oct 27, 2008, 10:17 AM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Also Tonight.

Right at the beginning of the show at 9pm we'll do a tribute to the great composer/arranger (and sometime trumpet player) Neal Hefti who passed away recently and play some of the famous "Basie Plays Hefti" (aka "The Atomic Basie"). Miles Davis, who was a close friend of Neal's said, "the Basie Band never sounded better than when playing Neal's stuff".
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