The period that Herbie Hancock had between his 60s Blue Note work and his funk stuff (Head Hunters ownwards) is often criminally overlooked. His Mwandishi band recorded some of the most awesome, mind-blowingly messed up music that I have ever heard, and Sextant is probably the most challenging album of all. I guess you could call it the paranoid, insomniac brother of Crossings (their previous album). Where Crossings had a real organic, earthy feel to it, Sextant moves even further into uncharted territory. If you like, Bitches Brew was electric, but this is electronic.
This is most noticeable on Rain Dance. It's probably the only electrosiren-swing tune you're likely to hear. Buster Williams inparticular shines on the upright bass. Hidden Shadows is in 19/4 (!) Yet it's not one of these indulgent excuses to write in a wierd time signature- it really flows, and Herbie plays what I'm tempted to call one of the most brilliant piano solos I've ever heard. Hornets is more of an organically instrumental groove- fast-and-furious- but with the kind of organisation and structure you'd never hear on Bitches Brew.
There's not enough Bennie Maupin on this album and he doesn't shine like he does on Crossings, but listen out for Eddie Henderson on the trumpet and flugel, who steals the show. Buster Williams is out of sight, as is Herbie himself. Overall, this album doesn't quite beat Crossings (for me nothing can; buy that before you buy this) but it is the most rewarding long term listen around. If nothing else, pretend you like it just to impress your friends.