Chip Wickham signs to Gondwana

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 …

Published: 12 Nov 2021. Updated: 21 days.

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

Before that Chip Wickham (photo: via Gondwana) is playing Yes Basement, Manchester on 25 November, Peggy's Skylight, Nottingham on the 26th and Ronnie Scott's on the 27th.

Tags: News

Sara Colman, Ink on a Pin: A Celebration of Joni Mitchell, Stoney Lane ***

Is there a need for another Joni Mitchell songbook album? Is there a need for anything? But without being facetious Joni Mitchell is certainly much covered it's true. And yes to be less circumspect of course there is, given the endless pool of …

Published: 11 Nov 2021. Updated: 22 days.

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Is there a need for another Joni Mitchell songbook album? Is there a need for anything? But without being facetious Joni Mitchell is certainly much covered it's true. And yes to be less circumspect of course there is, given the endless pool of inspiration Mitchell continues to provide.

And the results can be very rewarding. Herbie Hancock for instance achieved almost unprecedented success on River: The Joni Letters by winning overall album of the year at the Grammys in 2008 the first time that had been done by a jazz artist since Getz/Gilberto in 1965. That came with Joni's partial participation and direct friendship with Herbie and an often oblique way of unpicking the material pursued winningly by Hancock and producer Larry Klein.

I enjoyed that album a lot and every so often turn to new interpretations of the Mitchell canon, or should that be canyon? The one I usually turn to came a few years earlier, like this without the great Canadian's input and if brutally honest still better than this new treatment, is Ian Shaw's Drawn to All Things from 2006. Ian teased a lot more out of the lyrics than Colman manages, things that you did not know were even there half the time but made sense in the easing out.

However, while not completely won over by Ink on a Pin although appreciating the knock-out Oli Jacobs sound even if it's a bit too full-on, this is still a decent effort. And I do like Colman's bluesy voice, which lands not a million miles away from Liane Carroll's. Head to Colman's earlier album What We're Made Of if you are new to Colman first. I think it's more satisfying unless of course you just want to immerse yourself once again in all things Joni. Seven tracks in all they are 'Court and Spark,' 'Chelsea Morning,' 'Amelia,' 'This Flight Tonight,' 'Down To You,' 'Woodstock' and 'My Old Man'. Joining the singer are among others Percy Pursglove on flugelhorn, Steve Banks on guitar, Rebecca Nash, piano, Ben Markland, bass and Jonathan Silk, drums. Colman touring dates coming up are here.

Released on 26 November