|The group Incognito
is a musical class of it's own. This group is like a galaxy: Jean-Paul
'Bluey' Maunick is the sun around which a lot of artists circle
like planets. Many of these artists have made their own solo-projects
and Bluey himself plays with different artists in various
formations. The newest Incognito side project is Citrus
Sun with the album Another
Time, Another Space, which has been released in Japan and
will be in May 2001 in UK. Follow this link and you can listen to the
first downloadable sound samples of this new album.
Another project is the 1998 Inner Shade album 4 Corners. This album was released in Japan 1998, in USA 1999 and 2000 in UK at Ralph Tee's Expansion Records. The release-dates elucidate the importance of the Japanese music market in this genre. With the support of Morten, a Norwegian CJazz fan, and some Japanese friends I have published a list of the Japanese labels and their artists. Morten has now an own page at John Hildebrand's website www.contemporaryjazz.com called The Viking View, where one can find a lot of informations about Japanese Contemporary Jazz groups. A worthy addition because most of the informations at Japanese websites are depending of the Japanese letters not readable for Western eyes.
Inner Shade is the realization of Bluey's special dream:
"In this last two years I formed my own record label, Rice Records, just to keep that Incognito dream, of being bigger than just a band, alive. I've got [vocalist] Maysa's solo album coming out this summer, and Inner Shade is out on the label too. Other projects like Inner Shade allow us to write more songs, try out different ideas, and keep the overall dream alive. The kind of music we play with Incognito, it's not going to be for the masses. There's a sophistication to the sound, but it's also slightly left of center, so it's going to be for the underground really."
So Inner Shade was more of a jazz-based, instrumentally focused excursion?
"Yeah, whereby Incognito didn't feature guitar work at the forefront, I brought in Mark Whitfield and made that the front end of the sound with Inner Shade. It opens doors of opportunity for young musicians, like my son. Now he's actually signed to Talkin Loud in Britain for an album out on his own. I see myself as a bit of an Art Blakey kind of figure, giving people opportunities, and also giving myself new blood-a bit of a vampire situation here."... (The complete interview is to find at DMA.)
Well, it seems Bluey's imagination has become true. The Inner Shade album is rather unknown compared to the other "official" Incognito albums.
The first track Operator starts with a contemplative solo piano before it bursts to the well-known Incognito sound. Maysa's uncomparable black voice fits well with best arranged horn riffs and smooth strings interrupted by a short pointed guitar solo. Bluey's comment: "This is a road inspired song. We spend long periods of our lives away from our loved ones whilst on concert tours and on promotion trips, so we really look forward to any opportunity of communication with our partners. Whilst on tour, my phone bills have become the target of band jokes..."
Chris Ballins black voice brilliants at Tell Me Something . A rhythmical pitching tune with much horn riffs and strings and at least a nice abridged clarinette solo.
The drum 'n bass sound blended with horn riffs, flutes and keys continues at the instrumental What Is In The Box . Bluey's comment: "While recording this album we found ourselves in a mellow instrumental mood, so here's the result of going with the flow. Why this title you may ask, we are talking serious transatlantic care package no less."
Bluey about the title track: "Simon Hale's string arrangement introduces the title track, with subtle hints of musical flavours from around the world to set the scene. Influenced by the music created by bands like Rotary Connection, Chicago and many film scores during the seventies, here we find the driving force of the rhythm section "Richard, Randy and Graham" laying down a funky burning groove for Mark's fluid guitar lines, the astral tones of Maysa and the raw soul power of Chris ' voice..."
The influence of the group Chicago is also observable at the following Are You With Me?, featuring anew Chris ' impressing soulful voice. Also remarkable the rhythm section with a Samba feeling and the horn section with phat trumpets.
Loose Cannon is an instrumental with a
strange string arrangement, horn addition and Hammond B3 organ composed
in the style of a Lalo Schifrin film score of the seventies.
Inner Space is an atmospheric instrumental interlude with a film score mood added with some exotic instrumental sounds played by Thomas Dyani-Akuru like an anklong from Bali, whistles from Brazil and Mexico and a Kalimba from Africa.
Mood To Mood opens the door to the Latin Jazz section with heavy Bossa Nova rhythm presenting Maysa's smooth vocal on the first part and transmitting into an experimental electronic sound.
Randy Hope Taylor's pulsating Telecaster bass and the sound of crickets introduce into the drum and bass part again. A fierce sax solo played by Ed Jones, Graham Harvey's piano sparkles and Mark Whitfield 's guitar fire are mixed to a jazzy mprovisation of Freddie Hubbard. Bluey introduce the young drummer named Eshan Khadaroo and his son Daniel Maunik with drum effects and programming.
On the 120bpm groove Heaven showcases Mark Whitfield anew his exceptional guitar talent before the Incognito "machine" starts again. Maysa 's popular vocals are well accompanied by the horns and the strings sections. Then the tune changes his character to a Latino salsa with jazzy elements. Maysa climbs the highest notes and Mark plays a fabolous guitar solo overdub.
This album is breathtaking and one of the best "Incognito" album I have ever heard.