HERBIE HANCOCK — Sextant (review)

HERBIE HANCOCK — Sextant album cover Album · 1973 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
5/5 doesn't mean this album is equally good as "Headhunters" or "Maiden Voyage". This is the masterpiece of it's own time, but still after so many years it makes a great impression. Unique, original and inteligent.

The history of music is very tricky. Every one thinks that after "Emergency!", "Bitches Brew" and some late 60s prog-rock albums the beging of the JAZZ-ROCK was a fact. No, it was not! It had taken a few years to stabilize this guitar and synthesizer driven fusion. Before this jazz musicians were still searching for the right direction.

"Sextant" is an good example of this somehow mysterious 1969-1972 period. It is a new "Maiden Voyage" into the world where jazz meets electronic music, avant-garde and rock. Yes, rock. Despite there are no guitars, "Sextant" does have very "rocky" feeling.

The first track is mind-blowing. Do you see the cover with those tribal people dancing on kind of a cosmic Egypt under the giant Moon? This is the best description of this music I can imagine. "Rain Dance" is an intelectual journey into space. And it also differs a lot from monotonous (yet fascinating!!!) early Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze albums. If you are an electronic maniac, you can't miss the amazing keyboard playing by Hancock and Patrick Glesson.

"Hidden Shadows" is a very specific mixture of rock and jazz. Sharp, but laid-back, theme expressed by brass, electric bass and key riffs sound much like a rock or krautrock psychedelic track. But instead of guitar playing and power-drumming there are lots of a slighlty free-jazz sax, trumpet and synth notes. There is also a crazy staccato Herbie's solo that drives the track into extremely dense, cosmic ending.

The last track is a hardcore one. After a few minutes of loose intro and some bee-like sounds, the drum break at 3:17 begins the proper, fiery Hornets theme. The main part is almost constant dialogue between keayboards (lot of fun hearing those mad ring modulator, wah-wah and echoplex effects!) and brass. It sound like a meeting of gods, young genius musicians that have an opportunity to fulfifl the whole track with their crazy, new ideas. It's also good to notice the untypical groove that can remind a bit the afro-beat music. This track also shows that Hancock is still a brilliant jazz pianist who can play improvization that winds in the unexpectable direction.

"Sextant" is an amazing show of the expanding of the world jazz. But it's also good to remember that this album is strongly avant-garde and won't fit into ears of orthodox mainstream listener or someone searching for jazz-funk gems.
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