On 100 Degrees and Rising, the pioneering acid house outfit, Incognito, turn in another first-rate record, featuring their trademark mixture of jazz, soul, and funk. There's not much to distinguish 100 Degrees from their previous handful of records, but the band is smooth, accomplished, and deep, finding new variations on their trademark sound.
In 2013, Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick stepped out with his first solo album, Leap of Faith a stylistically varied set on which he performed the lead vocals but he quickly went to work on fresh material with the group he has led for over four decades. Leap of Faith evidently didn't drain his creativity, as Amplified Soul is another double-length Incognito album, 70 minutes in duration. Though it doesn't feature Maysa Leak or any collaborator on the level of Transatlantic R.P.M. contributors Chaka Khan, Leon Ware, and Al McKay, it certainly isn't short on powerful and uplifting lead vocal turns.
Incognito are a 15 piece acid jazz ensemble formed in 1980 by Jean Paul 'Bluey' Maunick who has been at the core of the band ever since. Over the years he has been joined by a host of UK and US artists including Carleen Anderson, Tony Momrelle and Gavin Harrison. They released the first of their eleven studio albums Jazz Funk in 1981, although there would be a 10 year wait for the follow up. They have had success in the UK singles charts with the top 10 hit "Always There" (with Jocelyn Brown), and the top 30 hits "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" and "Everyday". Their work has been popular with producers and has been remixed by Masters at Work, Roger Sanchez and David Morales.
From the opening bars of "Wild and Peaceful" (almost a description of the group's style) with its soaring strings, crystalline piano, and flawless vocal harmonies, it's apparent that No Time Like the Future is rich with Incognito's patented blend of soul and finesse. "It Ain't Easy," with its refrain of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," is a classic funk outcry; "Fearless" is a wordless chant with some great rhythm guitar and booting jazz saxophone; "Nights Over Egypt" backs another great vocal with popping bass and orchestral atmospherics; "Black Rain" mixes exotic drumming with some subliminal dissonance. Producer-composer-guitarist Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick has added string arrangements by Simon Hale, appearances by the horns of the hot Cuban band Irakere, and the performances of small army of R&B singers (Maysa, especially) and British contemporary jazz players (Ed Jones stands out on tenor and soprano). The result is an irresistible combination of strong songs and pulsing rhythm tracks, all polished to slippery perfection.
"Bluey" Maunick celebrated Incognito's 30th birthday on stage at the London INDIGO2 with a thrilling concert in summer 2009. It was a fantastic night: with their blend of soul and jazz, funk and fusion almost 30 musicians, with several surprise guest appearances, electrified the audience. Thanks to the contagious energy and the virtuoso solo numbers, each song became something special. And as if this band hadn't given us enough variety already, the strings of the Millenia Ensemble provided a delightful additional interplay of sound. Incognito didn't just celebrate 30 years of first-rate music and continued success with this performance - they also gave their fans an unforgettable gift.
A stunning side project First Protocol from Incognito leader Bluey and guitarist Tony Remy, continuing the Incognito tradition of seamlessly blending jazz and house.
Beneath the Surface finds original lead singer Maysa Leak returning to the Incognito fold. Coincidentally or not, the record finds the group moving deeply into smooth, laidback, jazzy soul. It's a seductive sound and the group executes it well, even though there ironically isn't that much substance beneath the surface.