Review Summary: A modal Jazz record that holds together beautifully, with introspective textures and moods.
Herbie Hancock's Empyrean Isles
showed him writing adventurous, sometimes introspective pieces of Modal Jazz. His experimentation with different textures, and moods was realized with it's predecessor, Maiden Voyage
Herbie Hancock's band was:
Freddie Hubbard — Trumpet
George Coleman — Tenor saxophone
Herbie Hancock — Piano
Ron Carter — Bass
Tony Williams — Drums
On Maiden Voyage, Hancock used his band as his tools in creating his masterpiece. While one of members took the lead, usually either Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, George Coleman on tenor saxophone, or Hancock himself on Piano, the rest of the band would create a solidifying rhythm, that would follow the leads, but not try and top them. The solos run freely with the rest of the band, and aren't constricted by anything the rest of the band does. It created a new dimension of mood and texture to the music that would not be there if everyone in the group was just soldering off into different directions of self-indulgent solos. In this way, it's obvious Hancock was taking notes from his mentor, the great Miles Davis. And while Davis might've loosened things up in terms of leads and maybe even self indulgence, Hancock's textures would've been much less introspective if Davis didn't show him the ropes.
Instead of Freddie Hubbard trying to bring old fashioned playing in and overshadowing the very introspective leads that I've mentioned many times, he adds to the textures and moods, while bringing fast paced solos that often goes straight into the tenor saxaphone. Sometimes they are undistinguishable, and flow together, note by note. All in all, the lead players relent throught the record, and give the rhythm section much to work with.
The piano playing is very relaxed, but at the same time it has a soul. The piano playing is probably the most improvised aspect of the record. It dosen't seem to hold too tightly to what Hancock wrote, but it can also hold together with the rhythm section nicely.
Sometimes, the entire band takes a big leap, and plays together, note by note, and creates some of the most intricate harmonies I've heard. It takes the introspective textures mentioned before and keeps them running ingeniously throughout the record. The fleeting rhythm section of Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums) gives the album a Hard Bop flavor, that Hancock had been digging out since his early days on his first record, Takin' Off
, but giving it a fast paced tempos that drove into Hard Bop, even shuttling the term post-bop. The bass playing of Ron Carter playing is fairly bouncy, but mainly stays low and adds precise rhythm even if it is slow in he mix at times. Tony Williams more often finds his rhythm in his cymbals, sometimes overshadowing the rest of the preformance with a overbearing cymbal crash. But he retreats to his bass and snares enough to keep the beat flowing and to show the rhythm an album like this needs.
At times the solos might slip off, and the band might take it too far, but they still find themselves back on track eventually, usually to show off the backing rhythm, or start off another solo. So despite not being as adventurous and as time killing as his previous works, it still proves itself influential for it's introspective textures, harmonies, and solos.