Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

Updated 22 May 2018
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Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

PARIS: The hotly hyped “British jazz invasion” has been the toast of international scenesters for some months now, with breathy adjective-heavy sprawls penned on both sides of the Atlantic paying tribute to a fresh generation of musos who grew up not in the conservatoires but the clubs, channelling the grit and groove of grime into a distinctly hip, 21st century strain of freewheeling, DIY improvised music.

Now the Arab world has its own outpost in the form of Chip Wickham, a UK-born flautist, saxophonist and producer whose second album grew out of extended stints teaching in the GCC. “Shamal Wind” takes its name from the Gulf’s primal weather patterns, and there’s a distinctly meditative, Middle Eastern vibe to the title track, a slow-burning, moody vamp, peppered with percussive trills, with hints of Yusef Lateef to be found in Wickham’s wandering woodwind musings.

There’s rather less goatee-stroking to be found across the four further up-tempo cuts, which swap soul-searching for soul-jazz, soaked in the breezy bop of a vintage Blue Note release. Recorded over a hot summer in Madrid, a heady Latin pulse drives first single, “Barrio 71” — championed by the likes of Craig Charles — with Spanish multi-percussionist David el Indio steaming up a block party beat framing Wickham’s gutsy workout on baritone sax.

Having previously worked with electronic acts, including Nightmares on Wax and Jimpster, one imagines the dancefloor was a key stimulus behind Wickham’s rhythmically dense, but harmonically spare compositional approach. Phil Wilkinson’s sheer, thumped piano chords drive the relentless nod of second single “Snake Eyes,” Wickham’s raspy flute floating somewhere overhead, readymade to be skimmed off for the anticipated remix market.

In truth, Manchester-raised Wickham is both too thoughtful, and too thoughtless, to truly belong to the London-brewed jazz invasion — Shamal Wind yo-yos between meditative meandering and soulful strutting with a wilful disrespect for trend.


Prince William visits Jordan’s Roman ruins at Jerash

Updated 25 June 2018
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Prince William visits Jordan’s Roman ruins at Jerash

  • Britain’s Prince William visited the Roman ruins of Jerash in northern Jordan

AMMAN: Britain’s Prince William visited the Roman ruins of Jerash in northern Jordan on Monday, accompanied by his host Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah as part of a historic Middle East tour.
The two princes met children from Jordan and neighboring war-torn Syria during their visit to the site, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Amman.
The visit to Jordan by the second in line to the British throne has been billed as a chance to bond with Hussein, a fellow graduate of Britain’s Royal Sandhurst Military Academy.
William was also due to meet British troops based in the kingdom, before heading across the River Jordan to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The Duke of Cambridge and the heir to the Jordanian throne strolled along Jerash’s Colonnaded Street, a paved promenade lined with towering columns.
They also visited the Temple of Artemis, built on an elevated part of the site in honor of the goddess believed to protect the city, which was at its most prosperous in the third century.
When they reached the ancient site’s theater they were greeted by Syrian and Jordanian school children in traditional dress, who gave a performance including music and poetry.
The show was organized by the Makany Center, a UNESCO-backed program providing health and education to both Syrian and Jordanian pupils.
Some 650,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the United Nations in Jordan since fleeing their country’s seven-year war which was sparked by peaceful anti-government protests in 2011.
Amman estimates the actual number is closer to 1.3 million people and says it has spent more than $10 billion (8.5 billion euros) hosting them.
William paid tribute in a speech on Sunday to “the way in which you opened your doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees,” even as Jordan said the same day that it would be unable to host any new wave of asylum seekers.
His Middle East tour will see William become the first British royal to pay official visits to both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
William, who is president of the Football Association, was flying into Jordan as England thrashed Panama 6-1 in the World Cup on Sunday, but he caught a recording of the match on television at his host’s home.