When trying to explain what motivates their music, jazz musicians have often spoken of their concern for the fate of our poor, battered planet. The British saxophonist and flautist Chip Wickham is the latest to do so.
When trying to explain what motivates their music, jazz musicians have often spoken of their concern for the fate of our poor, battered planet. The British saxophonist and flautist Chip Wickham is the latest to do so. In fact, the title of his wonderful new CD refers to climate change, suggesting that blue, fertile Earth is in the process of turning into the red dustbowl that is Mars. It’s a grim and sober warning, but the music is anything but grim and sober. In fact, it is a sensual delight, evoking joy and relaxation with its pulsating grooves and sunlit melodies. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Wickham left dark and rainy England to live in Madrid for ten years, later moving to Qatar.
Wickham’s work with the Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall seems to have had a major influence on him: Halsall’s Gondwana Orchestra is a vehicle for exactly the kind of gentle, contemplative, modal music we find on Blue to Red. Anyone who heard the title track of Wickham’s 2017 album La Sombra will know what to expect here (even down to that album’s track Red Planet).
Blue to Red will be welcomed by fans of Yusef Lateef, Pharaoh Sanders and all those artists who focus not on chord changes or demonstrations of technique but on long, floating lines of melody. Wickham plays the flute throughout, backed by Dan Goldman’s Fender Rhodes and Amanda Whiting’s harp, along with Simon Houghton on bass, Jon Scott on drums and Rick Weedon on percussion. The instrumentation is perfect for this style of music, all soft ripples and mellow, trippy atmospherics. Amanda Whiting’s harp is what gives the album its distinctive other-worldly vibe, reminding us of Dorothy Ashby’s divine 1970 album The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby and hypnotic, spiritual Alice Coltrane tunes like Journey to Satchidananda. Pianist Dan Goldman is a versatile presence, whether adding gorgeous background colours or driving the tune along with hip, funky energy, as on Double Cross. Where the album improves on La Sombra is in its attention to atmosphere: Blue to Red sounds richer, warmer, more mystical, partly through Wickham’s tasteful use of wah-wah, plate echo and reverb.
Although this album will do nothing to save the planet, it will do a lot to save our souls as trapped in our homes, we bathe in its righteous grooves and languid beauty.
CD Review – Peter Jones
1 Blue to Red | 2 Route One | 3 Interstellar | 4 The Cosmos | 5 Double Cross | 6 Mighty Yusef
Chip Wickham – flute and sax | Dan Goldman – keys | Amanda Whiting – harp | Simon Houghton – double bass and cello | Jon Scott – drums | Rick Weedon – percussion
Release date: 8 May 2020
Format: LP, CD and digital
Last modified: May 6, 2020