I woke up from a dream around 6.30am this morning (May 25). Suddenly, I realised that there was music playing in my dream and somehow Incognito and Mario Biondi had seeped into my dreams. It was a beautiful dream!! I arrived at the Assembly Rooms in Islington tired from a day’s work, full of food from Nando’s (restaurant) and thinking the venue needed air conditioning: I left feeling totally uplifted. I put all this down to Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick. I found out lots about Bluey last night. I found Bluey the storyteller introducing all the songs, introducing the singers and connecting with his audience. Bluey the 55-year old front-man, Mauritius-born and North London -raised, producer and musician leading Incognito, the band which has prolifically produced consistently great music for the last 33 years. The first thing I am struck by is how tight the band is. From the first note I am transfixed by the standard of musicianship on the stage and immediately drawn into the proceedings. I soon forgot about where I was - and the lack of air conditioning - and I was energised.
The focus was on the latest CD “Surreal”. Bluey introduces us to the singers in turn starting with long time vocalist Vanessa Haines treating us to a stripped-back version of “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing” and a cover of a ‘70s tune “Ain’t It Time.” Mo Brandis is next up looking extremely sharp and elegant in a stylish plaid suit and giving us “Goodbye to Yesterday” as well as treating us to a storming version of “As” later in the evening. Natalie Williams is the third vocalist to be introduced to the audience. She truly excels on “The Stars From Here” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”. Natalie is jazzy, soulful and delivers a stirring vocal whenever called upon to do so. In truth Natalie has enraptured me since her “Secret Garden” CD. It really is a highlight of the evening just listening to her vocals and her interpretation of these songs.
Special guest Mario Biondi is invited to the stage by Bluey as the featured and fourth vocalist. We are treated to one of the tracks from his “Handful of Soul” CD. It is one of Bluey’s favourites, a song he first heard on the Giles Peterson radio sessions called “This Is What You Are”. Mario has the kind of deep, sensuous and sexy voice that is bliss for the ears as well as a great stage presence. Mario also gives us two further Incognito tracks and returns later on “Lowdown” with Vanessa Haines. Interestingly, Bluey informs us that he is producing Mario’s next CD so that really will be something to look out for.
I think this is the best line up of vocalists Incognito have had so far and hope they stay around for more CDs and gigs. Then last and certainly not least and holding it all together we have the band : whether it’s Matt Cooper, musical director, exceptional on a variety of keys; Jeremiah on the trombone; Francesco on the drums or Joel on percussion (the latter delivering an outstanding duet whilst the rest of the band are off stage, holding their own and keeping the audience raptured).
Together they confirm that Incognito are a collective of exceptionally talented musicians hailing from all over the world. The biggest disappointment of the evening was having the set end due to an 11pm curfew. Time really does fly when you are swept away. The group were on stage for over two hours so thanks Incognito for a great night and sweet dreams!
About the Writer
Terry Joe is a London-based has led bands as a vocalist, releasing cds and regularly performing. His favourite artists include Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Ledisi, Nathan Haines, Me'shell NdegeOcello and many more.