Twenty-five years into his career as a professional musician, saxophonist and flautist Chip Wickham has released his solo debut. La Sombra, recorded in Madrid with three excellent musicians from that city's jazz scene, is gorgeous.
Wickham hails from Manchester, in north-west England. The area is home to some distinctive musicians, most notably trumpeter Matthew Halsall and saxophonist Nat Birchall. Much of La Sombra shares the spiritual vibe that characterizes the music of both these men and takes inspiration, in Wickham's case, from players like Yusef Lateef and Harold McNair.
Wickham opens the album with the title track, a beautiful, wistful and meditative tune with Wickham's flute reminiscent of Gong flautist Didier Malherbe's work with Kevin Ayers. "Sling Shot" is an immediate contrasta hard-edged, funky, tenor sax groover underpinned by David Salvador's attention-grabbing bass riff. The focus on irresistible, Blue Note-ish, grooves continues through "Red Planet" and "The Detour"the latter featuring Wickham's breathless, attacking, flute playing. Calmness returns with "Pushed Too Far," the warmth of the flute complemented by Antonio Pax' lovely vibraphone. "Tokyo Slow-Mo" is even more laid-back, another lovely tune whose impact is heightened by Pax' delicate vibes, this time duetting with tenor sax.
La Sombra closes with its single cover tune: a version of "La Leyenda Del Tiempo," a song made famous by Cameron de la Isla. It's another up-tempo number and gives pianist Gabriel Casanova space for a fluid, lyrical, solo. On La Sombra Wickham and his friends show real strength, individually and as a unit. From the fastest groove to the most contemplative, slow-paced, melody there isn't a weak spot to be heard. A fine start to 2017.
La Sombra; Sling Shot; Red Planet; The Detour; Pushed Too Far; Tokyo Slow-Mo;
La Leyenda Del Tiempo.
Chip Wickham: tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute; Gabriel Casanova: piano; David
Salvador: bass; Antonio Pax: drums, vibraphone.
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