Tag Archives: Incognito

Life Between The Notes: Bluey’s Funk Album Odyssey Of 2015!

Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick decided to change things up in 2013. A long standing member of the flexible lineup oriented acid jazz/funk group Incognito, he began a solo career. Bluey’s sound has by now joined many of the jazz/funk greats such as Donald Fagen and the late Joe Sample in aging to near perfection much like fine vintage wine. Of course a lot of changes have come thick and fast during the years 2012 through 2015. His solo music had enormous potential to showcase the many bright shades of the musical rainbow.

Bluey has elected to expand his musical vision into something that represents the very core of what funk (as a thematic concept) can truly accomplish in terms of speaking directly to people’s souls. “Dance To My Drums” opens with applause,funky drums, popping slap bass and rhythmic backup singing right upfront. The title song has a bass and dripping rhythm guitar based uptempo post disco/boogie funk sunshine to it.”Hold On” keeps that same instrumental vibe-only stripping it down to emphasize the hand clap powered rhythm.

“Saints And Sinners” is a very stripped down electric piano led neo soul/acid jazz style rhythm while “Trippin’ On The Feelin'” features a melodic synthesized symphony in a thickly percussive Brazilian jazz rhythm. “I’ve Got A Weakness For Love” extends the spare instrumentation into a more rhythm guitar led mid tempo groove.  “Tomorrow Never Lies” is a stomping Brazilian tinged jazz funk melody while “Columbus Avenue” has a swinging rhythm accompanied by big heavy piano chords for an acoustic vocal jazz oriented number.

“Caught Up In The Grey” has a sleek contemporary jazz flavor based on the piano. “Been There Before” has a melodically bright groove about its thick rhythm. “More Than Getting By” and “The Poetry Of Life” are both  stripped down acid jazz mid tempo numbers while ‘Sunships On The Shores Of Mars” takes on an acoustic bossa with cosmic lyrical poetry concluding the album. On every level, this astounding album is a fluid journey that references jazz/funk’s past,present and future as one expansive musical continuum.  Very happily? Bluey accomplishes that beautifully with this album.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bluey

Anatomy of THE Groove: “I’ve Been Waiting” by Incognito feat/Maysa Leak

Maysa Leak is an artist who came to my attention after first hearing her expert,smokey alto in the early aughts. The Baltimore native graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in classical performance.  She performed in the Morgan State Choir. It was there she met Stevie Wonder,who brought her in to be a backup singer in his late 80’s/early 90’s edition of Wonderlove. She was most prominent on his soundtrack for the 1991 Spike Lee Joint Jungle Fever. She released her solo debut in 1995 as well. While performing with different groups over the years,its a clear memory where I first heard her.

During the same time I was deep into bands like Jamiroquai,discovering Rufus/Chaka Khan,Miles Davis and the jazzy side of funk my mom picked up a CD called No Time Like The Future  by Incognito. This is the first time I ever heard Maysa singing on songs such as “Get Into My Groove”,which I’ve already covered here. Her jazzy style permeates much of her life,so much so that she named her daughter Jazz. And that jazzy groove attracted me to more and more Incognito albums over the years. Their 2008 album  Tales From The Beach  contained one of my favorite songs sung by her on “I’ve Been Waiting”.

Maysa begins the song by saying “if my heart should betray my emotions,I hope you understand just what it is I’ve been feeling”. Following that,a VERY Stevie Wonder like major/minor jazz chord progression played on a high and bass toned Oberheim synthesizer begins the musical end of the song. This consists of a flutter wah wah guiter and light cymbal/bass drums kicking off a thick slap bass line playing along three chords. After a couple bars of that the slow,funky drums come in along with the Fender Rhodes electric piano and Bluey’s liquid rhythm guitar.

In between this refrain,there’s a brief musical bridge which brings in the tight horn charts-which play call and response to Maysa’s vocals. The Rhodes also plays a strong counter melody to this as well. When the chorus comes in,Maysa is multi tracked within a sea of percussive drums,wah wah guitar,dancing horn charts and the even snakier slap bass line. Just before the second round of choruses and refrains,the keyboards take over for yet another short bridge on the outro. The music strips down to its most percussive elements on the final choruses as the song closes out on a breezy Rhodes coda.

One day,I’m hoping Incognito will be somewhat more recognized worldwide for their often ingenious continuation of 70’s jazz funk in the modern age. Again as has been a continuing theme with me lately,this is a complexly arranged composition. The chord progressions and melodic changes,along with the changes in instrumental soloing throughout,make this one of the most sleekly arranged jazz-funk jams of the new millennium. Maysa’s strong personality and determined “grown folks” outlook on sensuality really make this one of 2008’s major jams of the year for me,anyway.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 2008, Baltimore, drums, Fender Rhodes, horns, Incognito, jazz funk, Maysa, Morgan State Choir, Morgan State University, rhythm guitar, slap bass, Stevie Wonder, synthesizers, wah wah guitar, Wonderlove

Anatomy Of The Groove For 2/20/2015-Andre’s Pick: “African Eyes” by Sister Sledge

Philadelphia’s original sisters of soul Kathy,Debbie,Joni and Kim Sledge took their beautiful traded vocal leads and harmonies into the public consciousness in 1975. Five years and two albums later they began a hugely successful period with Nile Rodgers’ Chic organization-churning out songs that,among many excellent ones,include the anthem “We Are Family”. After 1985 the group had an eight year hiatus from recording  to emerge as a trio,produced by the British acid jazz outfit Incognito, while Kathy pursued a solo career.

Another seven years later the group re-emerged,again as a trio, with a brand new album called African Eyes. It was independently released,self produced,self written and the only reason I ever heard about it was because of my mother. She very much enjoyed hearing new music at the now defunct Borders Books & Music listening stations during the late 1990’s. This particular album seemed to not only surprise but very much excite her,which I know from experience is somewhat rare in this case. When I heard the title song for this album later that day? I completely understood her enthusiasm for it. And thanks to my friend from Kiev, Ukraine Andrew Osterov? I can now present this song to you.

The song begins with a pounding drum call before one of the sisters shouts out a declarative dialog in what sounds like Portuguese or Spanish. After this the percussive drum parts,speeding up and slowing down with each vocal refrain, breaks out into an intense uptempo frenzy accented by first by a steely slap bass pop from Kevin Mauch on the body of the song,and than joined by a jazzy improvised muted trumpet melody courtesy of Jessie Maguire on the choruses. The bridge of the song returns to a much cooler variation of the percussive drumming-juxtaposing the sounds of children playing with a full solo from that muted trumpet and an African flute before returning to the chorus as the song fades to a close.

Never before or since I heard or even conceived of the Sledge sisters as creating music that was so instrumentally and thematically Afrocentric. The song musically embraces the strong ethnic identification inherent in the original 70’s funk era-with it’s percussive rhythms and jazz oriented horn voicings. Even the solos and harmonies of the Sledge’s vocals have a totally rhythmic freedom in their projection. Lyrically the song boldly encourages young black American’s to see the beauty in their African roots-even declaring “civilization started near the Euphrates,when Adam and Eve started creating babies with those eyes”. Even evoking the chorus of their hit “We Are Family” with a new cultural context on the bridge of the song. To me this is the epitome of Sister Sledges musical journey. And impressed the music world so much that the African Eyes album was nominated for a best produced CD Grammy. The result is a high water mark for them in terms of funky cultural identity.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1990s, Africa, Afrocentrism, Debbie Sledge, Funk, Incognito, Jazz, Joni Sledge, Kathy Sledge, Kim Sledge, Nile Rodgers, percussion, Sister Sledge, slap bass, trumpet

Anatomy of THE Groove 7/25/2014: “Get Into My Groove” by Incognito

Following the post disco freeze out of most soul and funk music in the early 80’s? It would seem that the British music scene really kept the progression of that level of instrumental and melodic eloquence continuing. It can be heard in funk oriented bands of the new wave era such as Englands Spandau Ballet,Heaven 17,Level 42,Duran Duran and,on the rockier side of it The Clash and former Sex Pistol John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd. There was also a strong multi racial jazz based end of this scene that would emerge with Matt Bianco, which originally featured their very soulful lead singer Basia,Sade and Jean Paul Maunik’s Incognito. After a one off recording in the early 80’s,the band didn’t re-emerge again until the 90’s. During this time Incognito helped pioneer with acid jazz fusion of American jazz/funk and house music. At the very end of the decade in 1999,they released their album ‘No Time Like The Future’-featuring the song that really got me deeply into their music entitled “Get Into My Groove”.

Kicking off with a counting down type snare drum,the song goes into what is basically a contemporary hip-hop/soul drum machine rhythm with some beautifully orchestrated,cinematic soul strings. Shortly after these spirited horn charts kick in,along with two prominant bass lines in a wah wah fueled electric solo and a walking Moog synth bass one. After a brief vocalese scat from Jamiroquai front man Jason Kay,Wonderlove alumni Maysa Leak comes in for the lead vocal. She is talking about someone,a politician maybe, who is willing to preach about the woes of the world while taking no specific actions to correct them-asking “tell me how do you change the world if you haven’t got the nerve”. On the melodically ascending chorus Maysa asks this invidual to come and feel her groove,step into her shoes and that to “get into my mind,you gotta get into my groove”. After a consoling and very jazzy bridge,the song repeats that chorus with variations to the songs conclusion.

On a personal level? I feel that the post Columbine/pre (alleged) Y2K world of 1999,one defined by a great deal of paranoia and lack of hope,was in need of “people music” with a message perhaps more so than any other time in history. In America people such as Erykah Badu were beginning to deliver an Afrofuturist musical vibration of their own. But this combination of a former Stevie Wonder singer,along with a British acid jazz band also featuring backup vocals from…the lead singer of the biggest crossover act of the British acid jazz funk scene in America made a bold statement (to me anyway) that the humanistic message of the funk/jazz spectrum was every bit as alive as the music was. And this was sophistifunk at that. Yes rhythmically it actually did incorporate some of the mechanized hip-hop/soul rhythm. Yet the arrangement-with elegantly produced live strings,horns and bass synthesizers gave it that flavor of a fully formed futurist groove,modeled on the EWF/Roy Ayers musical attitude to lead the way into the new millennium.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1990s, Acid Jazz, Disco, Funk, Hip-Hop, Incognito, Jamiroquai, Maysa, Stevie Wonder

Andre’s Amazon Archive for May 17th,2014: Incognito-‘Amplified Soul’

Amplified Soul

A Celebratory Album For Incognito!

When I first discovered Incognito when my own mother purchased their 1999 album No Time Like the Future album in a budget bin at the now defunct Wild Rufus records on Coastal Maine,who could’ve guessed that by that time there would be a decade or more of catching up to do with them. There was no internet in our household at that time. So all there was to pay attention to was the music. Since then I’ve been able to learn what a journeyman musicians career Bluey has had since he first recorded as Incognito in the early 80’s and reformed the outfit a decade later. I call them that because its never been a totally formalized band. Many members have come in and out over the years. Yet since 1991 they’ve maintained a very consistent schedule of album releases,touring and appearances on other artists records. They represent not only a modern day jazz-funk band,but a similar spirit to the originals in the sense that much of the “acid jazz” genre,which encompasses that ethic,seems to revolve around them in some kind of way. And here we are,its 2014 and Incognito are celebrating 35 years as an entity. And this album represents part of that big celebration.

Normally I’d start such a review discussing the pluses. However,just to get it out of the way “I Couldn’t Love You More”,”Rapture”,”Day Or Night”,”Another Way”,”I See The Sun” and “The Hands Of Time” are not only highly repetitive of one another,but also of the sort of major/minor chorded horn based mid-tempo grooves that seem to comprise the bulk of much of Incognito’s albums since the beginning of the millennium. That being said,they are all wonderfully played and performed. “Hands Up If You Want To Be Loved” mixes it up with a rhythmic lilt and a bit of a slick gospel drenched juke joint type piano. “Hats (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”,with its 60’s era Crusaders/Ramsey Lewis/Young Holt uptempo hand clap-powered gospel soul/funk just cannot help but bring to mind a musical response to Pharrell Williams newly iconic hit Happy. “Silver Shadow” is my favorite song on the album,with its powerfully melodic chorus and glistening,high pitched dyno’d electric piano chords right out of the early 80’s sophistifunk school the band themselves came out of to begin with.

“Day Or Night” has a jazzy neo soul flavor very much in the vein of a Jill Scott or Erykah Badu. “Something ‘Bout July” gets into a Stevie Wonder style Latin soul/funk samba type groove while “Wind Sorceress” again provides that hyper melodic stop/start sophistifunk groove on a more instrumental end of things. “Never Known A Love Like This Before” is one of their always strong disco friendly uptempo dance/funk scorchers “Stop Running Away” is a cinematic type groove with Bluey singing in a captivating (at least to me) choked Curtis Mayfield style falsetto. The title song,presented in two parts,also continues in the cinematic funk vein. This would’ve been a near perfect album in every way since there is an overriding Chitlin’ Circuit style of chunky,gospel drenched funky soul-jazz about some of these songs that showcase a new instrumental direction with Incognito. Not to mention the uptempo Afro-Latin style percussion dance/funk numbers are among their best. Maysa,while an asset,is not present here however this I have no trouble with. The only thing that detracts from this album is something they’ve tended to do a lot: rely too much of minor chorded mid-tempo grooves that sound similar and make the album go on somewhat longer than it may need to. Still that doesn’t take away too much from the fact they are still here. And make it clear they have intentions on innovating their music and perhaps learning from their creative missteps in their bright looking future to come.

Originally Reviewed…Today

*Here is a link to the original review on Amazon.com. Please view and comment on site as well. Thank you!

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1WZCFV6ZK936J/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00J6CGDFO

Leave a comment

Filed under Acid Jazz, Disco, Funk, Incognito, Jazz, Memphis Soul, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Pharrell Willaims, Soul, Stevie Wonder

Andre’s Amazon Archive for May 10th,2014-Down To The Bone ‘Dig It’

Down To The Bone

From the very first moment I heard Down To The Bone in the late 90’s,it was clear this band from the London acid jazz club scene was going to be right up m alley. Since that time its been my pleasure to have purchased and reviewed a couple other DTTB albums. They have a number of albums but alas,they aren’t always the easiest to find. So when it came to my attention they had a new release planned for this year? It was on my wish list for the local record store Bull Moose. And sure enough,the store got a copy of the album in stock regardless of the order. Generally speaking,when it comes to the jazz/funk fusion genre I really do look forward to anything to emerge from that genre year by year. Mainly because of the rhythmic and melodic musical adventures they tend to take the listener one when placing your ears into the center of the grooves. Sometimes a high level of anticipation can lead to a mild letdown. Other times,its perfectly fulfilling. And the latter was what I hoped for in this release.

“Dropping Knowledge” starts the album out on a superb note-brightly melodic and percussion/horn driven uptempo funk where every instrumental part accentuates the other in rhythmically grooving harmony. “Meteorite”,”Getting It Together” and the closer “Give Me Love” keep that same bright feeling going strong. “The Bounce” and the hit single “The Sweetness”,on the other hand are locked down,foot stomping funk. Both have a slinkiness to them that brings out the colorful sheen of the piano and horn solos. A richly dancable late 70’s “sophistifunk” jazz-funk approach comes into play on “Happiness Is The Healer” and “Put A Different Spin On It”-two vocal numbers featuring the spirited singer Katie Leone. Both numbers passionately tout the virtues of joy and celebration of life over cynicism and giving up on oneself. They are “people music” funk with a message to the very highest degree. The title song brings a very Afro-Latin percussion flavor for a strong,sweaty jam with a tasty Roy Ayers-like vibraphone solo throughout. “We’re On The Move” brings everything together with a percussive groove before moving into the Ike Hayes-like wah-wah powered cinematic soul throw down on the bridge.

There is a quality about the presentation of the music on this album where,especially around the middle,the funk aware listener can just sense that crucial moment when everything about where the grooves are going are about to come to a head,and into something very beautiful and elegant as well. Generally speaking, DTTB albums I’ve heard in the past had a strong House/dance style rhythmic ethic to them. In short,a mild techno/club influence in with the funk. The spirit of this album is very much full on in the EWF/Incognito school of rhythmically and melodically dynamic live band funk. And the band to a literally bang up job on that as well. Very much players with a strong collective style,who typically maintain that unison approach, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in this band-from percussionist Joe Beckett to trombonist Tim Smart,who are are afraid to venture out and play tremendous solos in the middle of these classy and well produced grooves. And if not stated in lyrical/vocal form? The nature of the melodies…more than imply the joy of living and working to the rhythm. And the positive attitude that comes from this impulse. Truly a candidate for my favorite album of the year thus far.

Originally written May 1st,2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Acid Jazz, Disco, Earth Wind & Fire, Funk, Late 70's Funk, Music

Anatomy of THE Groove 3/7/14: “We Are On the Move” by Zo!

 

Bass. In Your Face. Not an 8 track….or is it? Pristine audio fidelity aside, Detroit multi instrumentalist and producer Lorenzo “Zo!” Fergeson’s “We Are On the Move” sounds like it’d be right at home coming out of some Kenwood speakers in an early ’80s Trans Am with T-Tops. The song begins deep in some funk, with a  taut yet nimble bass guitar line stepping in velvet slippers over rock solid drums, establishing a funky strut up the yellow brick road before it meets it’s companions for the voyage, beautiful Rhodes piano chords, strings, percussions, and a rhythm guitar that acts like smelling salts to a punch drunk boxer – makes you get UP! By the time it reaches the first go round of the chorus you’re dancing there (or bopping, or snaking, or just groovin’, but sitting is out of the question) wondering how somebody can create this type of early ’80s but right now funk vibe in 2014?

The pedegree of the artists in question would provide a hint. Zo! is a member of the Foreign Exchange, who’s last album, “Love in Flying Colors”, was one of the freshest examples of quality, song constructed, danceable R&B/Funk/Soul love songs this writer has heard for forever. Lead vocals are handled by Neo-Soul master Eric Roberson, and he sings in a straight, direct emotional way that any man singing this ditty to his lady should be able to muster. And it’s worth mustering too, “There are times in the night/when I wish to spend/time after time/looking deep within/but if there’s a girl/to bring me out of my shell/it’s you”, goes one of my favorite lyrics. “We Are on the Move” is a buyount, funky, sophisticatedly hip song of appreciation for that special someone who makes your life better, and it imagines an even better life in the future, with music and lyrics that make that point and then deliver on it, in real, sweaty, happy terms. MC/Vocalist Phonte gets involved here in back grounds, as does singer Gwen Bunn and percussionist Brevan Hampton, and they give the song an orgiastic, gospel Afro dance joy climax. “We are On the Move” is the type of song I could wake up every morning too, and much like Mr. Pharrell Williams recent smash, “Happy”, actually live to, based on the inspiration it provides in both lyric and groove.

And the video! Wow. Zo! Roberson and Phonte all strut down the street sharper than rat turds, yes, that’s sharp on both ends, in the manner of the Whispers in their classic “Keep on Loving Me” video. The Whispers vid is one of my favorite, four super well dressed black men strutting and stepping in downtown LA near dusk. There is really nothing quite like it in the catalog of American music images, and the dudes have big fun recreating it here. Have fun grooving to this song and then be sure to check out Zo!’s album, ManMade, for more good feeling music.

1 Comment

Filed under Funk