Herbie Hancock
Empyrean Isles


4.0
excellent

Review

by ZIG USER (25 Reviews)
February 28th, 2023 | 9 replies


Release Date: 1964 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Major Breakthrough of Hancock's Longstanding Career

After all that can be learned from Andrew Hill and Thelonious Monk, along comes Herbie Hancock for a new revamp. From 1964 to 1973, Herbie had one of the most consistently creative careers jazz has ever seen. If Herbie had stopped recording at that point, he would still be considered one of the legendary geniuses of American music. With Freddie Hubbard, a first-rate mercenary, playing cornet, Tony Williams on drums and Ron Carter on bass, these are always good travelling companions for Hancock's lucubration.

The album opens with One Finger Snap, a relatively catchy and upbeat tune that enters a realm of rather impressive improvisations. It's not the most overwhelming track, but it's still far from mediocre. The second song, Oliloqui Vally, starts with an incredible double bass line that leads into a blues formation with a chilling horn. This song can give the impression of a person being on a tropical island, bathed in sunshine, or it can take you to a dark jazz club with intellectuals talking about the essence of the soul.

This work is known mainly because it contains the original version of the sample that US3 used years later on the hit Cantaloop. The original Cantaloupe Island is a little slower, but no less catchy. Moreover, this track is by far the most dancable on the album. The theme is extremely catchy that will get everyone tapping their foot. Blues oriented, this music has a sort of homey feel to it, but still gets the sophistication that is part of jazz. It always sounds new, but familiar at the same time.

Finally, the last song on the LP is The Egg, which has a slightly darker mood and avant-garde rhythmic percussion. It begins with a rhythmic piano theme and then the horn comes up with the melody. During the course of the song, Freddie starts improvising as the piano slowly begins to degenerate and by the end, it's total improvisation. Then, in a nicer moment, Ron Carter does a mysterious solo on bass using the bow, which is unusual in most jazz ensembles. Then Herbie on piano starts playing along with the double bass and they do some beautifully subtle, minimalist improvisations. Finally, the music returns to the main melody.

All in all, "Empyrean Isles" remains one of the highlights of Herbie Hancock's long career, and perhaps the most accessible. While the first three tracks are certainly not as risky as The Egg, the album balances hard-bop with experimental tendencies, enough to make this work appealing while offering plenty of variety and incredibly solid structures that never slow down. In short, "Empyrean Isles" is a smooth album, with Cantaloupe Island being one of the most recognizable pieces of jazz of the 1960s.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Zig
February 28th 2023


2747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mort's reviewless records PT2 #2















.

GhandhiLion
February 28th 2023


17650 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Niceeee. Best Herbie

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2023


5100 Comments


Nice Zig, pretty good rev too

Ghandi, Maiden Voyage and Headhunters have to be up there though right?

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2023


5100 Comments


Thrust too, Herbie’s got a solid af discog

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2023


61295 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

nice

didn't care much for this at first, but i throw it on fairly often nowadays. solid record

GhandhiLion
February 28th 2023


17650 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Maiden Voyage is up there. I wouldn't put Headhunters in the top 5 though, as good as it is.

GhandhiLion
February 28th 2023


17650 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

top 5 probably:



this

Sextant

Maiden Voyage

Crossings

Mwandishi

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2023


4150 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice rev! Love this one

Zig
February 28th 2023


2747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sextant is his best, imo.



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