(courtesy of Narada Jazz)
Anyone paying attention to the upper echelon of soul music's ever changing face knows the name Incognito. More than the moniker of a great band, Incognito is a brand-a guaranteed one-stop for sophisticated, uplifting U.K.-spun soul-jazz, stamped by a cavalcade of top-notch vocal talent, sweeping arrangements for rhythm section, horns and strings, substance-fueled lyrical content and the unflagging leadership of guitarist/songwriter Jean-Paul Maunick, affectionately known as "Bluey."
Over a 27-year career, London-based Mobo Award winners Incognito made stateside strides with both dreamy urban adult/Quiet Storm fare such as "Deep Waters" and "Still a Friend of Mine," as well as jazzy horn-kissed club jams like "Everyday" and a cover of the Ronnie Laws/Side Effect classic "Always There." Fans will be glad to know that all four of those songs can be found on their latest album, Bees + Things + Flowers-only they'll sound nothing like the arrangements to which they've grown accustomed.
"It was time for me to break away from making records the way I was doing them," the man called Bluey affirmatively states. "A bit of a formula was creeping in. It was time to put a stick in the spoke!" This departure marks an artistic spike in the canon of Incognito with the largely acoustic and meditatively down-tempo Bees + Things + Flowers, the band's first album affiliated with hallowed jazz giants Blue Note Records via Narada Jazz.
Incognito has been affiliated with several great labels including the British pioneering acid jazz imprint Talking Loud and American jazz stalwarts Verve. But Bluey-equal parts music fan and musicologist-is especially jazzed to have his custom Rice Records imprint under the umbrella of the distinguished Blue Note Label Group. "Blue Note played a huge part in the music that has influenced me. They made movements happen in the music world. Years ago I was honored to do a compilation of Donald Byrd's music for them. I consider (Blue Note President) Bruce Lundvall to be one of the unsung heroes of the music industry. I aspire to be just like him, once I come off the road for good."
Reflecting on how Incognito's music has affected fans around the globe in the past, Bluey shares, "I've had people in Japan, Indonesia, South America and Europe come up after shows and tell me, 'Bluey, your music saw me through a rough period.' I think, 'I wrote this thing with my innocent heart so far away from here, yet it's touched someone here.' That's when I realize we can't fix the people, but we can make them aware of what is within. I believe we're on this planet to use language and music to set moods and emotions. Part of that is to strip things down. That was the beauty of doing Bees + Things + Flowers. It shows how we really feel about music."
"Some people at the label have expressed that they like the feel of the new record so much they already want Vol. 2," Bluey concludes. "I may do that, but I'm looking forward to doing other things, like a fully orchestrated big beat album. That's the excitement of doing new and crazy things. Bees + Things + Flowers marks our first giant step into blazing new territories."