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Empyrean Isles Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered

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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, March 23, 1999
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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. One Finger Snap (1999 Digital Remaster) (Rudy Van Gelder Edition) 7:21$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Oliloqui Valley (Rudy Van Gelder Edition) (1999 - Remaster) 8:30$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Cantaloupe Island (1999 Digital Remaster) (Rudy Van Gelder Edition) 5:34$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  4. The Egg (1999 - Remaster) [Rudy Van Gelder Edition] (1999 Digital Remaster) (Rudy Van Gelder Edition)14:01$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  5. One Finger Snap (1999 Digital Remaster) (Rudy Van Gelder Edition) 7:36$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Oliloqui Valley (1999 Digital Remaster) (Rudy Van Gelder Edition)10:47$1.29  Buy MP3 

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 23, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Blue Note
  • Run Time: 54 minutes
  • ASIN: B00000I8UG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,677 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description


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

Customer Reviews

Hubbard's work on the cornet is amazing as is Carter's contra bass.
James Tetreault
On Empyrean Isles, one of Herbie's earliest solo recordings we find the pianist/composer in fine shape creating some of the best jazz ever laid to wax.
Hancock,one the the truly great pianist of post-bop era,sounds like he is his having the time of his life.
Brian D. Fitzpatrick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Micah Newman on January 3, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Perhaps the best thing about _Empyrean Isles_ is that each musician individually really shines and is used to the maximum. Maybe the quartet format (as opposed to quintet) facilitated this effect; in any case, these four musicians hit on an incredible chemistry on the set documented on this album. Freddie Hubbard is incredibly deft and adroit in his playing here; his rapid flurries and runs conjure up images of sea spray, as they were also to do in the similarly-themed _Maiden Voyage_. His tone on cornet is very tasty. Bassist Ron Carter is fortunately not relegated to the background; he is as noticeable here as he was later to be in his playing with the Miles Davis Quintet; to wit, his remarkably intuitive and expressive solo on "Oliloqui Valley", and creative improvisatory contributions to "The Egg". Tony Williams on drums is ON FIRE, as usual (although he does sound kind of reined in on the midtempo "Cantaloupe Island"). And Hancock gets to showcase some of his most assured compositions ever, with his always colorful and distinctive style on the keyboard.
The inclusion of both the indelible signature Herbie tune "Cantaloupe Island" and the adventurous, creative group improvisation "The Egg" both in their own unique way make this an important album. But what I really love about _Empyrean Isles_, and what grabbed me about it at the first, is how spontaneous and energetic the whole thing sounds, especially as compared with the more self-conscious, somewhat overrated (albeit still plenty good) _Maiden Voyage_. If you're interested enough in Herbie Hancock to get that one, you shouldn't be without _Empyrean Isles_.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on July 3, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Listeners mainly familiar with Hancock'spost-"Headhunters" work will be surprised by thefree-flowing, challenging compositions the pianist took on with a stripped-down unit on "Empyrean Isles." The work on this release represents some of the best music from the cauldron of change that was jazz in the '60s. When he released "Empyrean Isles," Hancock had been with Miles Davis a year, and his work on the album shows how fully he had taken advantage of the freedom that Miles offered him. Pulling his rhythm mates, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, with him into the studio, Hancock added Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. The result is a record that sounds nothing like a Miles Davis album. Instead, the pianist was able to fully satisfy his penchant for light, shimmering, ethereal melodies and tones and complex compositions. Not that he ignores catchy rhythms; "Cantalope Island," is one of the most infectious tunes in jazz. But on "The Egg," Hancock stretches out with a long, challenging composition that features lots of space and freedom. It's a great cut, one that fully challenges and engages each of the top-flight members of the quartet. A great quartet it is. You'd expect Hancock, Williams and Carter to have no trouble meshing, and they are superb together. Freddie Hubbard, given the unenviable job of replacing Miles' trumpet, takes on the task fearlessly and turns in a great overall performance on the album. He showed his success was no fluke, by the way, on Hancock's follow-up, the equally successful and enjoyable "Maiden Voyage." "Empyrean Isles" is on the short list of great Blue Note albums, which puts it in very select company indeed. Take "Chameleon," "Palm Grease," and "Rock It" off the play rotation for a while and give a listen to what Hancock sounded like when he was taking composition and jazz utterly seriously. The results were impressive.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By spiral_mind on October 9, 2002
Format: Audio CD
In this album's notes Nora Kelly writes about a mystical group of islands out somewhere in the ocean, a tropical paradise from which no human has ever returned. It makes a nice read and a good background for the album, but what's important is that the music itself helps bring that description of wild fruit-laden gardens and exotic splendor to life. It's easy enough to hear anything you want in music without words, true, but there's always been a tropical feel to Empyrean Isles for me. Herbie (as always) shows why he's been considered one of the most dynamic and inventive keyboardists in jazz; his piano work here is nothing short of amazing.
If you lived anywhere near a radio in the early 90s, "Cantaloupe Island" will sound awfully familiar. Here we get to hear what the original was like before it got sampled and butchered for radio airplay; it's a funky blues vamp with a bouncy piano line you can't help bopping your head to. The track rolls along nicely, giving a slightly slower-paced followup to the hyper "One Finger Snap" and the smoking "Oliloqui Valley." The only breather in the whole long groove is the more experimental "The Egg," which trails off into a dreamy free-form bridge before sliding right back into a swinging jungle beat to draw to a close.
Herbie's approach to this recording was quite a musical challenge, but his sidemen were more than up to the task. The rhythm section is solid throughout, giving him and Freddie Hubbard plenty of breathing room to paint in the song structures with a wide variety of bright colors. I can't recommend any one Hancock album as the essential one, given the different phases his career has taken, but if you just like the quality jazz Blue Note is known for, it's hard to find much (if any) fault with the later Maiden Voyage or this more overlooked gem, Empyrean Isles.
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