Archive for March 20, 2010

Cantaloupe Island(s)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by telescoper

It’s been a pretty exhausting few weeks, but now we’ve reached the end of teaching term. Not that I’ve got nothing to do, but I should be able to concentrate on writing up a few papers that I’ve struggling with for many months.

Anyway by way of a celebration, and to correct for the fact that I haven’t posted much music recently, here are two totally different versions of a great tune by Herbie Hancock called Cantaloupe Island. The original recording of this came (made on June 17 1964) appeared on the album Empyrean Isles which came out on the Blue Note Records label. Its instantly catchy riff and fine solo playing turned it into a big hit, and it quickly became a standard.

The first  video clip features the original personnel of Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums) and Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) but with the addition of the great tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. It was recorded during a special concert in 1985 to celebrate the Blue Note label. It’s got a similar groove to the original version, but the live performance allows the players to stretch out a lot more than on the original, so it’s about twice as long.

The second rendition also features Herbie Hancock on piano (and other keyboards), but it’s totally different. Taken at a faster tempo, and firmly in the style of Jazz-rock Fusion that Hancock gravitated towards later in his career, it features Pat Metheney (on electric guitar), Dave Holland (bass) and Jack de Johnette on drums. They’re all great, but the drummer on this track is sensational! I saw Jack de Johnette playing years ago – at the Jazz Cafe, I think – and I couldn’t believe the speed of his hands and the immense drive he generated even while playing complicated patterns. Awesome. 

PS. I’ve used the spelling I believe to be correct, as that’s how it’s written on the original Blue Note record (of which I have a copy). I’ve seen many variants, though, including those on the youtube clips shown here.