Herbie Hancock
Empyrean Isles


4.0
excellent

Review

by Zig USER (65 Reviews)
August 8th, 2018 | 10 replies


Release Date: 1964 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An accessible jazz album combining the playfulness of hard bop with elements of soul and avant-garde.

Here comes Herbie Hancock after everything learned from Andrew Hill and Thelonious Monk for a new rehash. Putting everything cool that language allows. From 1962 through 1968 Herbie had one of the most consistently creative runs jazz has ever seen. If Herbie had stopped recording at that point he would be considered one of the legendary geniuses of American music. With that Freddie Hubbard, a mercenary of the first place where he puts his eye, he plays his cornet, the first cousin of the great Davis. With Tony Williams on drums and Ron Carter on bass, always good traveling companions for Hancock's lucubration.

The album opens with "One Finger Snap", which has a relatively catchy, upbeat motif, then goes into a realm of pretty impressive improvisations. It's not the most overwhelming track though. There's nothing unique about it, but still is far for being bad. The second track, "Oliloqui Vally" starts off with an incredibly bass line riff which leads into a blues formation topped off with a chilling cornet. This song can either gives the impression of being on a tropical island soaking in the sun, or it can take you to a dark smoky jazz club with intellectuals in fedoras hats and dark suits talking about the essence of soul.

This album is mainly known because it contains the original version of the sample that US3 years later used for their crossover hit "Cantaloop". The original "Cantaloupe Island" is somewhat slower, but no less groovy. Furthermore, "Cantaloupe Island" is by far the funkiest of the album. It has an extremely catchy riff that will have everyone tapping their feet. Blues orientated, this song has a sort of down-home feel to it, yet it still obtains that sophistication that is such a part of jazz. It always sounds fresh yet familiar at the same time. Finally, the last song on the original LP is "The Egg", which has a slightly darker mood and an avant-garde rhythmic procession. It starts off with a rhythmic piano motif, then the cornet come up with the melody. During the course of the song, Freddie on the cornet, starts to improvise while the piano riff slowly starts to degenerate, and in the end is improvisation. Then in a most beautiful moment, Ron Carter delivers a mystifying solo on bass using a bow, which is not common for most jazz ensembles. Then Herbie on piano starts tying in with the cello and does some beautifully subtle and minimalistic improvisations. Then song eventually leads back to the main melody and fads out.

Overall, Empyrean Isles remains one of the highlights of Herbie Hancock's long career and perhaps his most accessible one. Although the first three tracks are certainly not as risky as "The Egg", the album balances hard-bop with Hancock's experimental tendencies enough to make this recording appealing while having a lot of variety and incredibly solid structures, which never slow down. At the end of the day, Empyrean Isles is a soft gentle jazz album, with "Cantaloupe Island" being one of the most recognizable pieces of jazz of the 60's.



Recent reviews by this author
Mike Patton and Jean-Claude Vannier Corpse FlowerPetrus Castrus Mestre
Jose Afonso Cantigas do MaioEnnio Morricone Once Upon a Time in the West
Brian Eno Discreet MusicJohn Zorn Moonchild
user ratings (154)
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Zig
August 8th 2018


1933 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Jazz Piano Masters II

Digging: Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate

AnimalsAsSummit
August 8th 2018


4636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

sweet album. the last song is a great piece of avant-garde jazz.

Digging: Walrus - Hikari no Kakera

50iL
August 9th 2018


5305 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Holy shit, this didn't have a rev?! Smh. Pos

Digging: Edgard Varese - Varèse: The Complete Works

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
August 9th 2018


19275 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh nice

Digging: Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven - We're New Again - A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven

MrHarrison
August 9th 2018


444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice review pally, this album's so good

Digging: Robyn Hitchcock - Eye

bnelso55
August 9th 2018


1339 Comments


Can't believe this didn't have a review. Thank for covering it! Pos'd. I really like this album. Like Animals said, The Egg is a great closer.

lalchimiste
February 26th 2019


1102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's crazy how this album is like a perfect screenshot of where jazz was at the time but also were it was heading, a kind of modal/bop template with hints funk, fusion and avant-garde all at the same time. Plus, what Tony Williams brings is always so creative and powerful

Digging: Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters

Trifolium
November 14th 2019


13752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Whoa this is quite something. I'm settling for this very low 3.5 for now, but I think if I spent some time with it this could grow into something very nice for me.

MrHarrison
November 15th 2019


444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah it's definitely a grower.

Trifolium
November 15th 2019


13752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That final track is gorgeous.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy