Personnel: Herbie Hancock (acoustic & Fender Rhodes pianos, Clavinet, Mellotron, hand claps); Bennie Maupin (soprano saxophone, piccolo, bass clarinet, afuche); Dr. Eddie Henderson (trumpet, flugelhorn); Julian Priester (alto, tenor & bass trombones, cowbell); Dr. Patrick Gleeson (ARP synthesizer); Buster Williams (acoustic & electric basses); Billy Hart (drums); Buck Clark (bongos, congas).
Producer: David Rubinson & Friends, Inc.
Reissue producer: Bob Belden.
Engineers: Fred Catero, Jerry Zatkin, John Vieira.
Recorded at Wally Heiders and Different Fur Trading Co., San Francisco, California in 1973. Includes liner notes by Bob Belden.
Digitally remastered using 20-bit technology by Tom Ruff (Sony Music Studios, New York, New York).
SEXTANT is a perfect example of how CD reissues of long out of print records can gain more respect when brought to the broader, modern context. The first recording Hancock made for Columbia and the last one done with his Mwandishi octet, a group deeply under the influence of Miles Davis' experimentation with electronics and global polyrhythms, SEXTANT was dismissed upon its release as a fusion-absorbed bastardization of jazz forms and melody-free dead ends. But heard through modern ears seduced by Miles' global funk and Brian Eno's soundscapes, it's a revelation, forecasting a future that may or may not have anything to do with Jazz.
It starts with a flurry of backbeats amidst a funk bottom, as bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart swing wickedly on midtempo grooves and percussionist Buck Clarke adds a light layer of speedier rhythms. Bennie Maupin, Eddie Henderson and Julian Priester's horns keep the music at least slightly grounded in the electric jazz idiom. Still, the true alchemists in this sonic play are Hancock (strapped in a cockpit of keyboards and synthesizers, orchestrating the chaos) and synthesizer technician Patrick Gleason, whose special effects impregnate these three tracks with a futurism beyond its years.
Rolling Stone (9/3/98, p.102) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...Taking his cue from Davis' swirling, anarchic BITCHES BREW and ON THE CORNER, Hancock went even further into outer space....much of SEXTANT, with its twittering, burbling effects, amounts to a primitive version of Nineties ambient music..."