Herbie Hancock — Sextant
(Columbia CK 64983, 1973/1998, CD)
by Mike McLatchey, Published 2016-05-05
McLatchey's Second Tier
You can easily see each era of pianist Herbie Hancock's discography flow in colors. While he started in the Miles Davis Quintet, he was both leader and contributor to a whole host of Blue Note albums in the late 60s before the decade turned and the electricity started to set in. Then the Mwandishi band was formed and Hancock began to create a major electric legacy of his own after leaving his mentor. The transition from Mwandishi to Sextant showed Herbie moving to his most farthest out album, mixing various strains of experimental and free jazz with the rock and funk of the era and a great deal of electronics as well. At the time this album was created, Herbie's band was stretching out in massive chunks of music, often vamping for as long as 20 to 30 minutes at a time, so it's no surprise that when Sextant showed up it was three long pieces. This is a classic of the jazz rock era, a style that in this guise is something completely separate from fusion. But unfortunately it would be on his bandmates' albums, particularly Eddie Henderson and Julian Priester, that we'd see the evolution of this style because apparently Columbia had different ideas for the direction Herbie would take and the jump from Sextant to Head Hunters was almost bewildering on the face of it. I love that stuff too but this was the apex of Hancock's game.
Sextant was practically avant garde music, an approach to jazz that distilled a number of streams coming out of the 60s. It largely came from his live work at the time, which included vast improvisational spaces. I have a show from this period that was about three discs and included almost 30 minute chunks of long jamming stretches that worked with many of the themes that showed up on Sextant. In comparison to the live music, Sextant seems incredibly focused, but then, of course, if you flip forward to Head Hunters you'll see another considerable narrowing of the field. Having Dr. Patrick Gleason involved on the synthesizers had a big impact on the spatial quality of Herbie's work — Sextant wasn't nearly as much about jazz riffing as it was about creating huge atmospheres with a large group. If you think of Miles' Bitches Brew as being the birthplace of a number of careers you'd have to consider this band another birthplace as well, one that launched the careers of Bennie Maupin, Julian Priester, Buster Williams, and Eddie Henderson, the latter of whom fortunately continued the Sextant tangent with his own career when Hancock launched the Head Hunters band. Here you have three pieces of music that are almost like paintings with grooves that were so sparse they largely underlined the huge head spaces this group created. Like with Crossings it makes these albums almost infinitely listenable because there's just so much to follow. And maybe as time goes on we'll get to a year when this will actually seem contemporary as even to this date it's just completely ahead of its era.
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more
Quasar Lux Symphoniæ - Abraham - One Act Rock Opera – First, let's clear up any confusion: This is in no way related to the British neo-symphonic group Quasar that once featured Tracy Hitchings as vocalist. Instead, QLS is an Italian four-piece core band... (1994) » Read more