37

Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles

Greg Simmons By

Sign in to view read count
Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles As a member of Miles Davis' second quintet during the 1960s, pianist Herbie Hancock rarely performed live under his own leadership, but he did take the time to record. Hancock's 1964 effort, Empyrean Isles, remains one of the most diverse and often challenging records of the pianist's tenure with Blue Note Records. It's a rare jazz record that offers both a hugely popular hit, as well as an outré masterwork of rhythmic repetition and angular melodies.

A masterpiece like Empyrean Isles deserves a first-class reissue, and the good folks at Music Matters have undertaken to press the ultimate vinyl version. With access to the original master tapes, some of the finest cutting and pressing equipment available, and a boatload of enthusiasm, they've cut what was a single LP onto two 180g 45 rpm discs that simply smoke any CD version ever released. Packaged with a deluxe, full-color gatefold jacket, and additional Francis Wolff session photographs inside, this pressing is a feast for both the aural and visual senses.

Empyrean Isles is best know for the hit "Cantaloupe Island," which alone is worth hearing on this vinyl edition. The sound is large and smooth, and the piano—which can sometimes sound boxed in on Van Gelder recordings—is almost full-sized. Most importantly the weight of the piano chords come through loud and clear. What is most startling is the amount of additional information revealed through this true analog pressing. Freddie Hubbard's trumpet is brassy and rich, and Ron Carter's bass, which can often lack tone and depth on CD, is plump and three-dimensional. "Cantaloupe Island" has become one of the most ubiquitous jazz songs ever, especially after being sampled by Us3 for their hit "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)." A pressing like this will make people question whether they've ever really heard it at all.

The real meat of Empyrean Isles—its adventurous heart—lies with "The Egg," A thirteen-minute exploration of the limits of beat repetition that includes some of Hubbard's most restless trumpet playing. He strains his horn against the locked rhythm, looking for a way out that never comes. It's a fascinating juxtaposition of improvisation over rigid reiteration. On this Music Matters pressing, those elements have never been clearer, with the Tony Williams' drums revealing particular snap and scale.

Like most albums in the Blue Note catalog of the 1950s and '60s, Empyrean Isles was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. That pedigree leaves a few period sonic fingerprints, but on the whole, with the proper care taken in this remastering, this recording offers a wealth of fresh detail and enhanced musicality. Empyrean Isles has fared well through the Music Matters process, yielding a pressing that will truly augment an understanding of the music.


Track Listing: One Finger Snap; Oliloqui Valley; Cantaloupe Island; The Egg.

Personnel: Herbie Hancock: piano; Freddie Hubbard: cornet; Ron Carter: bass; Tony Williams: drums.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Funk/Groove


Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Honest Woman" CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Do Not Disturb" CD/LP/Track Review Do Not Disturb
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 26, 2016
Read "Taylor Street" CD/LP/Track Review Taylor Street
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 3, 2016
Read "Cactus" CD/LP/Track Review Cactus
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 24, 2016
Read "The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review The Unknown
by Budd Kopman
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "New Shoots" CD/LP/Track Review New Shoots
by Mike Oppenheim
Published: March 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!