February 2, 2015

Herbie Hancock - Sextant (1973)

Herbie Hancock is a household name today, and while he certainly scored some hits and was a part of the most famous jazz group of the mid and late 60s, he didn't have the world's attention until he split from Davis's massive fusion groups for his own explorations. After the In A Silent Way/Bitches Brew/Jack Johnson trilogy with Davis, he went to Warner Brothers with a sextet featuring the familiar name of Julian Priester and fusion wind legend Bennie Maupin among other members that I'm not as familiar with. He released three albums with this sextet and the trilogy came to be known as the "Mwandishi" trilogy, named after the first record of the series. But Sextant is just as much a start to another trilogy as an end to the Mwandishi collection--it was his first album being signed back to Columbia Records as a band leader.

Sextant picks up where he was heading on those Warner Brothers sessions, meaning even more experimentation, overdubs, different types of keyboards, etc. This is probably the apex of Herbie's fascination with freeness and aliens. By 1972 even Miles Davis with his electric trumpet and wa-wa had moved onto deep, earthy voodoo funk and Larry Young was embedded into the somewhat Sun Ra-esque spirituality. What I'm trying to get at here is that this hyper-produced album with all of its electricity and glow still sounds so organic and full of rainforest-like life. With all of its ambition, Sextant isn't just a sprawling mess of pointless and cryptic fusion (compare with Wayne Shorter's late Blue Note combo Motto Grosso Feio and Odyssey Of Iska). The intersecting rhythms, never-heard-before sounds, and spaced out atmosphere will make you feel like you're on Plutonian LSD fucking a wormhole or some shit.