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on 26 October 2006
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.
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Being part 2 of my rediscovery of Herbie Hancock's 70s recordings.

After Crossings, part 1, I was ready to take a hit. Couldn't possibly be as good. It is.

Rain Dance begins with synth-produced dancing raindrops, with other sound effects also contributed electronically, building the ambience. Drum, bass and Fender Rhodes then join in. There's a feeling familiar from (the subsequent and more well-known) Headhunters, but it's too long to be that commercial.

Hidden Shadows is opened by an electric jazz groove from the bass and bass clarinet, underpinned by mellotron (there's a word I never expected to have to type!) and synths and the horns making occasional forays.

Hornets is the closest Hancock gets to a tribute to Miles live. The trumpet, though unmistakably not Miles in timbre is nevertheless uncannily close in phrasing. Bennie Maupin's presence hints at how life would have been had he played Bitches Brew live, and he goes on to channel Airto on kazoo (or Hum-a-zoo as it's called here). There are occasional Miles-like climaxes, and then quite unexpectedly it goes out on the hi-hat.

Part 3: Mwandishi...
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on 27 November 2014
this album I found to be good it was exciting and unpredictable with some surprises it was also cleverly though out. This is music that is designed to be listened to with an open mind it doesn't have anything catchy to say persay it is more about the sound the the relationship of the other sound so n the album to other sounds and how it changes and things like that I found it very interesting though it isn't my favourite. The album has three songs on it all of which are pretty long it runs at 39 minutes. the liner notes give you an essay on the music involved again if you are new to this kind of music I.E Jazz I would suggest trying something else first unless you are realy raring to go and jump in at the deep end something else would Be Crossings by erbie Hancock or perhaps John Coltranes Giant Steps or Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus
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on 7 November 2012
Flugelhorn, bass clarinet, trombone, cowbell, electric bass, drums, synthesizers, electric piano and clavinet with fuzz wah and echoplex, dacha-di-bello, melotron (sic), Steinway piano, congas, bongos. This is the instrumentation for `Hidden Shadows' the second track on this album. I've listed it because it gives an insight into what's going on here, which is jazz-rock fusion from 1973, so before the whole notion settled down to be a vehicle for self-indulgence and solo overload.

This is an album which, along with MWANDISHI from 1971 and CROSSINGS from the following year captures a sextet unlike any other in fusion history. It also says something for Hancock's artistic development considering he's shied away from such risk-taking in the decades since. But it wouldn't be fair to assume that the collision of funk, psychedelia, and jazz that `Hidden Shadows' is and which both predates and surely influenced Prince can be put out every day.

Indeed the whole album's nothing if it isn't rarefied music. `Hornets' took up the whole of the second side of the LP. As it develops it shows a measure of debt to Miles Davis in his ON THE CORNER period, but then Davis and Hancock had form enough not only to be in the fusion vanguard but also to ensure that the form could be restless and exploratory, as opposed to commoditised for spoon-feeding to a less demanding audience. Bennie Maupin is a musician probably pathologically incapable of flirting with the bland anyway, as he shows here on bass clarinet.

Hancock went on to have a hit album with HEADHUNTERS later in the decade, but as far as this writer's concerned it was a hit mainly because it's so straightforward by comparison with the endlessly intriguing -in places baffling- stuff to be found here. But then there's never been any accounting for taste.
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on 17 February 2013
I just love it when an artist known for a certain style or sound breaks out of old ground and launches into something new and exciting. I feel this is exactly what Herbie Hancock did when he made this album. He'd already done 'Crossings' which had laid the ground work for this new style but he obviously felt that album was enough of a success to continue in the new experimental vein.

What one hears in the opening seconds of the first track 'Rain Dance' is not jazz; it is something new. Sure it has jazzy elements but its core is now more towards electronica/funk territory. In short we hear fusion. It's the death of jazz but the birth of a new chapter in music.

Even Miles Davis himself said in an interview in later years that jazz didn't exist anymore. Yes, bands play jazz music today but it's more like a picture of jazz rather than jazz incarnate as it was in say the era of 'A Kind of Blue'.

So, if you want to hear a highly skilled keyboardist from a jazz background laying down some beautiful and occasionally startling sounds in lengthy tracks, 'Sextant' is most definitely your album. If you want not even a trace of rock, funk, electronica or latin in your jazz collection then most definitely stay away.
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on 12 August 2014
Good stuff. It shows that the man has a real soul rather than a need to create it's commercial equivalent of 'soul nursery rhymes'. I love these more thoughtful creations. They won't date like his flared trousers and disco ball trash music.

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on 22 August 2011
A great album to listen to in almost any mood, and ahead of its time, a sign of things to come. I particularly like "Hornets": with its persistent pulsating dance beat and grungy tones, if you overlooked a few of the more conventional jazzy interludes it really could pass off as a new release on the dance floors tomorrow. A good album cover too!
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on 23 July 2013
It sounded like they were experimenting on a different number of sounds. Though it is a Herbie Hancock CD it is an acquired taste. Moreover the CD is not as well recorded as Secrets that I reviewed earlier. Still, if you love Jazz, this is a piece o History and a must listen.
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on 31 January 2016
bit over the top with avantgard atmospheric sounds, I mixed this title up with another. my mistake.
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on 27 October 2015
Had this on vinyl. Its great ti hear it again.
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