Incognito - In Search of Better Days (2016)

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Incognito - In Search of Better Days

One may ask how a band achieves longevity, especially when members have come, gone and come back again. For an answer, you need look no further than Bluey, the co-founder and leader of the jazz funk ensemble, Incognito, a band in its fourth decade that still has plenty of gas in the tank, producing uncompromising music for its international fan base. The U.K.-based ensemble of vocalists and musicians are groove masters to be sure. But it is Incognito’s special brand of classic soul and funk that has continued to resonate under the guidance of Bluey and musical director Matt Cooper.  And their trademark funk frosted beats have been emphatically stamped on the musical world and remain relevant in today’s urban market. 

Incognito - In Search of Better Days

One may ask how a band achieves longevity, especially when members have come, gone and come back again. For an answer, you need look no further than Bluey, the co-founder and leader of the jazz funk ensemble, Incognito, a band in its fourth decade that still has plenty of gas in the tank, producing uncompromising music for its international fan base. The U.K.-based ensemble of vocalists and musicians are groove masters to be sure. But it is Incognito’s special brand of classic soul and funk that has continued to resonate under the guidance of Bluey and musical director Matt Cooper.  And their trademark funk frosted beats have been emphatically stamped on the musical world and remain relevant in today’s urban market. 

Still proving its staying power as a durable collective, Incognito registers its 17th studio CD, In Search of Better Days. Besides the familiar smooth funk beats and riffs, there are a few diversions of contemporary jazz ballads, break beats and jazz rock fusion. And there are plenty of vocalists in Incognito’s cast who bring the better in Better Days. Imaani’s creamy alto oozes a sweet aroma on “Love Born in Flames,” with its swooping backing vocals and precision brass section. The warm tones of Tony Momrelle wrap around “Love's Revival,” a song that beckons back to seventies’ Earth Wind & Fire.  Vanessa Haynes pours her heart out on “Just Say Nothing,” another seventies knee-deep-in-funk jam anchored by the clavinet, and “Love Be The Messenger,” punctuated with marching snares by Joao Caetano. 

As per all Incognito releases, Bluey steps up to the microphone on “I See The Light,” this time with one of his better vocal turns, aided by guest Avery Sunshine on acoustic piano. Though In Search of Better Days shines most of the time with their talented lead voices, a few fall by the wayside such as Katie Leone’s wobbly performance on “Crystal Walls,” and “Better Days,” where Vulu Malinga lacks that soulful kick and the usually on-point music production of Ski Oakenfull is nearly one-dimensional.

Maysa always rises to the occasion with any kind of groove thrown in her direction, and that continues on this reunion with Incognito. “Everyday Grind” utilizes break beats with acoustic piano hooks: “I have to find a will to leave it all behind/Before I lose my mind.” Maysa’s honey-tinged alto and soft flowing, rich beats go hand-in-hand on “Selfishly”: "Of course I understand I'm guilty/As I am selfishly/I’m happy to be free.” Then there’s the precious ballad in the debut single, “All I Ever Wanted,” decorated with a soothing elixir of brass, Fender Rhodes, guitar and percussion drips.

Though the vocalists take center stage, In Search of Better Days’ instrumental showcases are of the highest quality, as well.  A blistering flute solo by Andy Ross sets the bar with “Echoes of Utopia,” a song that also echoes classic acid jazz sounds with tasty guitar and keys from Francisco Salas and Matt Cooper, and climaxed by Alistair White's fierce trombone contribution.  The jazz/rock fusion journey entitled “Bridges of Fire” is graced by guest guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei and Andy Ross on tenor saxophone, while Richard Bull holds down the rhythm section on bass and drums. 

In Search of Better Days again highlights the huge, reliable ensemble that has kept the wheels turning impressively for over three decades. Bluey and Incognito’s funk flames burn brightly again, showing why this legendary act remains as relevant and immediate in 2016 as it was in 1986..  Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver

 
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