Exposé Online banner

Herbie Hancock — Sextant
(Columbia CK 64983, 1973/1998, CD)

by Mike McLatchey, Published 2016-05-05

Sextant Cover art

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.


Filed under: Reissues, 1998 releases, 1973 recordings

Related artist(s): Bennie Maupin, Herbie Hancock, Dr. Patrick Gleeson, Eddie Henderson, Julian Priester

Latest news

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Pre-Med - The Truth About Us – Pre-Med is a space rock band that formed in 2004 by Danny Faulkner and Hawkwind’s bassist Alan Davey. The Truth About Us is their second release and it features the talents of Eamon...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues