Tunes on Tuesday: Cantaloupe Island

Why this tune?

Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” is instantly recognizable from the first bar. The opening piano vamp from his 1964 recording is perhaps one of the most memorable sounds in the jazz repertoire. That recording was something of a jazz “hit,” that led to over 100 recordings of the song, including a couple of vocal recordings that include the lyrics written by Mark Murphy in 1975. That iconic sound became a true hit in 1992 when Us3 sampled the vamp in their Top 100 single Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia).

I played the tune at my last gig on St. Croix last week (where better to play “Cantaloupe Island” than on a real island?). I realized afterwards that I was only approximating Hancock’s famous piano figure. Tunes On Tuesday was a perfect opportunity to learn Hancock’s piano part while recording a short interpretation of his classic tune. I added a simple bass and percussion part to the vamp, and layered two additional keyboard tracks on top of the piano.

Now that I have Hancock’s sounds under my fingers, I’ll be better prepared the next time someone calls this tune in a jam session or on a gig.

Tunes On Tuesday Reel

Full track

Check out these recordings

Herbie Hancock, 1964

Us3: Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)

Herbie Hancock, 1976

Mark Murphy

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer from Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology consultant currently working with nonprofit cllients

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