Incognito – Live Music Review

INCOGNITO are music’s answer to the salamander. Over the past four decades, they’ve continued to thrive through thick and thin with band members disappearing, only for new ones to come on board and regenerate the Incognito sound.

Incognito’s heart is the indefatigable Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick who continues to pump out his mix of funk and soul with the enthusiasm of someone half his age. Critically, he surrounds himself with musicians who buy into the Incognito sound – be they singers, saxophonists, drummers or trombonists.

It’s a joyous musical  collective and Maunick leads from the front like a gentle warrior. Always smiling. Always encouraging. A super connection with the band he oversees and the audience before him. Inclusive in all aspects of his life.

The result is a continued freshness that audiences love (Ronnie Scott’s was packed to the rafters). No one Incognito show is the same. No one line up is the same. One vocalist is replaced by another, but the Incognito heart keeps pumping. One salamander leg  gets chopped and the new one is just as good.

At Ronnie Scott’s on Monday (January 31), incognito had the audience jumping for joy as they played a mix of Maunick’s  own music, a number of mind-blowing instrumentals and super covers. By the end, everybody was literally off their seats and on the floor as wine was put down and they boogied in the club’s narrow walk-ways. It was one big Incognito party.

Incognito’s opener, Parisian Girl, showcased the band’s brilliant brass section as Patrick Clahar led the way on Saxophone, followed by Alistair White on trombone and Sid Gauld on trumpet. Crescendos were reached, supported by Matt Cooper on keyboards – nursing a broken ankle.

But when the vocalists joined the band on stage, Incognito truly came to life as Vanessa Haynes belted out a blistering Stevie Wonder classic: Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing. What a voice. Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing Vanessa. You’re destined for stardom.

Not to be outdone, Natalie Williams followed with an Incognito classic: Above The Night.  Natalie, a regular at Ronnie Scott’s, showed what a brilliant voice she has. ‘Amazing,’ said someone sitting behind me.  Everyone in my row nodded in agreement like parrots in Kensington Gardens.

Williams was followed by Tony Momrelle’s Close My Eyes, another Incognito classic. Tony is another member of the collective going places with a voice that would soothe a hangover in 60 seconds flat. So smooth. No wonder he is cutting out a successful career as a soul artist.

Even Maunick, not to be outdone, joined in with a funky You’re In My System.  

Oh, baby
You are in my system
I just want you to know that

Day by day
And night by night
I feel you in my mind
It happens all the time

Momrelle’s version of Stevie Wonder’s I’ll Be Loving You Always almost brought the house down while Williams did full justice to Incognito’s I Hear Your  Name.

Other highlights included a display of wonderful drumming from Francesco Mendolia – sensationally assisted by Joao Caetano on percussion – and bass guitar wizardry from Francis Hylton. Lead guitar Charlie Allen was faultless.

With the show finishing with a thumping Always There and Bob Marley’s One Love, Incognito proved that they are sublime live performers. Constantly evolving. Always surprising. And marvellously entertaining.

Maunick has created a musical force that is unstoppable. Incognito has got a lot of life and vim left in it yet. Thank goodness. Amazing.

Title image by Steven Cropper

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