Now signed to Mancunian label Gondwana, probably the UK's top spiritual-jazz label and a sound at the heart of the label's identity for many years, flautist-saxophonist Chip Wickham has covered 'Sais (Egypt)' ahead of releasing an album for Matt Halsall's label.
It's a distant time now and I didn't review that night just getting into jazz really at the time but one of the best ever gigs I saw in London's Jazz Cafe was Lonnie Liston Smith back around 1989 or early 1990, the exact date escapes me. I went along being a Miles Davis fan and knew that he had played with Miles and was among the personnel of On the Corner and Big Fun. Laidback and funky doesn't even come close although to some detractors at the time the sound was seen bizarrely as pillow music! But I liked it for its saturated groove-heavy but never obvious feel and the velvety dare I say cosmic (?) synths wrapped around the whole room that night, the place happily full of hippies, the scent of patchouli oil caressing the nostrils, cigarette smoke forming rings in the air.
Cosmic Funk from which 'Sais (Egypt)' is drawn was issued on the now ultra-collectable Flying Dutchman label in 1974 with the great Coltrane producer Bob Thiele at the tiller. For the Egyptologists among you Sais was the birthplace of the pharaoh Amasis II, according to Plato. Trane's 'Naima' is on the record as is Wayne Shorter's 'Footprints'. But it's the title track that leads the studio album off with Mtume's 'Sais (Egypt)' at the end. Interestingly free-jazz legend Andrew Cyrille is on the record (in a radically different context to the ones we usually know Cyrille for) as one of the album's percussionists. And Liston Smith is also joined by his brother the vocalist/pianist Donald Smith.
Gondwana note on their Bandcamp page that saxist and flautist Wickham was an original member of the label's Gondwana Orchestra, and he goes way back with Halsall appearing on his debut Sending My Love. It's a fine cover. Sadly we don't have the full personnel for the track thus far. But we'll bring you more on Wickham when the album is released. SG