Gulf-inspired Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

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. (Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Gulf-inspired Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

  • “Shamal Wind” takes its name from the Arabic Gulf’s primal weather patterns, and there’s a distinctly meditative, Middle Eastern vibe to the title track
  • 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

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 Arabic 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.  A similar spirituality drifts over “The Mirage,” another probing eight-minute dirge, featuring rising trumpet star Matthew Halsall, which sways with the languid trot of a camel crossing a desert plain.

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 – and been remixed by US producers Andrés Carlos and Niño – 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.


‘Joy’ snags top prize at Marrakesh Film Festival

Sudabeh Mortezai (center) poses with her trophy. (AFP)
Updated 09 December 2018
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‘Joy’ snags top prize at Marrakesh Film Festival

  • Marrakesh’s 17th annual festival was attended by top cinema stars like US director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert de Niro

MARRAKESH: Austrian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy,” an unflinching look at migrant sex workers in Europe, won the top prize Saturday at the Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco.

Italian actress Monica Bellucci presented the trophy for the film, which tells the story of a young Nigerian forced into prostitution in Vienna.

Marrakesh’s 17th annual festival was attended by top cinema stars like US director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert de Niro.

Tunisian Nidhal Saadi won Best Actor for his role in the film “Regarde moi” (Look at me), directed by Nejib Belkhadi.

And German Aenne Schwarz won Best Actress for her role in “Alles is gut” (All is good), directed by Eva Trobish. Tribute evenings honored the careers of visionary French filmmaker Agnes Varda and her co-director, French street artist JR, who teamed up to produce the road documentary “Faces Places.”

The festival also hailed the career of Moroccan filmmaker Jilali Ferhati, whose films were shown in a new “panorama of Moroccan cinema” sidebar.