Empyrean Isles is the best of Hancock's Blue Note albums and an outstanding example of modal jazz. But beyond that, it's simply one of the finest pure jazz albums ever made, right up there with Kind of Blue and Love Supreme.
Oscar Peterson augmented his regular working trio of the time (bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes) with Henley Gibson on congas, Marshall Thompson on timbales, and Harold Jones as an added percussionist for this release, which focuses mostly on the music of Brazilian composers (so the title Soul Espanõl is a bit misleading). With the surge of interest in bossa nova and samba, Peterson's interpretations of songs like "Manha de Carnaval," "How Insensitive," "Meditation," and "Samba de Orfeo" have stood up very well against similar jazz recordings of the mid-'60s. Peterson's "Soulville Samba" has a gospel flavor, while his "Sensitive Samba" is more laid-back; Vincent Youmans' decades-old "Carioca" also fit in nicely. This is an enjoyable, if not essential, part of Oscar Peterson's considerable discography.