everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!
Pianist and composer Herbie Hancock has had a long and varied career, during which he’s enjoyed both creative and commercial success, though seldom at the same time. For many listeners, his creative peak came early, on two stunning Blue Note recordings, Maiden Voyage and the less celebrated Empyrean Isles. Recorded in 1964, Empyrean Isles is the earlier of the two and also the most radical. Hancock’s quartet features Freddie Hubbard substituting a cornet for his usual trumpet, and getting a more burnished, slightly warmer sound. Without the jazz-typical saxophone present, Hancock’s is almost a naked band, and the single horn blurs the lines between the pianist’s mood-rich compositions and improvisation. The group uses the increased sense of space for intense collective creation, with Hancock and drummer Tony Williams pressing far beyond their instruments’ usual roles and engaging Hubbard in edgy, complex dialogue, while bassist Ron Carter anchors the performances. Hubbard rises to the occasion with brilliance, responding to the stimulus with a fluency of thought and execution–a daring that built on his avant-garde experience with musicians like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Eric Dolphy. From the breezy “Oliloqui Valley” to the funky “Cantaloupe Island” and on to the dissonance of the extended “Egg,” this is one of the most significant documents of the Blue Note style that emerged in the mid-’60s. It’s music that tests the balance of control and risk, and Hubbard’s is also one of the great performances by a trumpeter in modern jazz. –Stuart Broomer
Rappamelo’s favorite track: