Empyrean Isles by Herbie Hancock could be viewed as a warm up for Maiden Voyage, universally accepted as one of the greatest jazz albums ever produced. On Empyrean Isles, the celebrated Hancock/Carter/Williams rhythm section (working in Miles Davis's band at the time) combine with the artistry of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, (the whole group, together with saxophonist George Coleman, recorded Maiden Voyage) who provides an interesting contrast to Davis, with his more aggresive, Coltrane-influenced take on Hard Bop trumpet playing. The aggressive opener 'One Finger Snap' is pure floating groove as generally associated with the rhythm section, while Oliquoi Valley takes a more relaxed but still powerful bent as Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock show their affinity for one another's playing style. The third track is the well known 'Cantaloupe Island' that in the style of 'Watermelon Man' from 'Takin' Off' provides a modal blues line with a stunning groove. The final track is 'The Egg' a free improvisation, where Ron Carter in particular shines. It's interesting to note the disparity in approach between 'The Egg' and other early free jazz, for example the work of Ornette Coleman. Overall this album shows Herbie Hancock's self-assuredness at this early stage in his career and may have never been topped, even by Maiden Voyage, depending on your point of view.