April 19, 2016

Herbie Hancock - Empyrean Isles (1964)

THE premier trumpet quartet album. I've reviewed a few trumpet quartets on here, and in each of those I talk about how it is more difficult for a trumpet--without another horn--to hold down a melody because of its shrill tone, lack of notes, blah blah blah. Jazz musicians were not clueless to this disadvantage, so Herbie Hancock--the next genius of modern music--decided to use his oddly hinged bop and funk compositions to his advantage when writing out the melodies for trumpet player Freddie Hubbard. The end result is that Hubbard is used efficiently on some calm, unique, and simple melodies. It also helps that the rest of the band are some of the most intriguing musicians of all time and were all ~arguably~ peaking in 1964. Herbie is a wizard of melody, funk, and moodiness and really fleshes out the album by playing whatever needs to be played with whatever inflection needed to support the band. Tony Williams' drumming is so unique and central he might as well just be called another horn, he's that good. Ron Carter is all about texture and tone when he plays as opposed to playing percussive and heavy like some post-bop bassists, so he helps complement the odd configuration of Hancock and Williams well. Empyrean Isles is essential jazz, that everyone will learn something from.


Empyrean Isles