Saturday 10 August 2013

Incognito live at Ronnie Scotts

Incognito had the audience on its feet at Ronnie Scott's last night, treating us to a selection of their biggest hits, some new songs and a musical tribute to George Duke who died this week. It's 34 years since the first Incognito recording was made and yet their sound remains fresh and appealing to both long standing fans as well as to a younger audience.

This is a big band, with bass guitar, keyboards, a trio of horns, drums, percussion and no less than four vocalists. Band leader and founder, Bluey has been constant throughout the years but Incognito has always been a band that musicians come in and out of and perhaps this has ensured the continued freshness. One of the leading exponents of what is sometimes known as "Brit-funk", Mauritian born Bluey was originally a member of another band from that genre - Light of the World but told the story of how he was displaced by another, younger guitar player which led to him forming his own band, Incognito.

The set began with Expresso Maduereira, an excellent and lengthy instrumental work out of a track originally recorded by Banda Black Rio but a regular track in the Incognito repertoire. This was followed by a number of more recent tracks before the real business of the night began with a fantastic rendition of Parisienne Girl - the band's first recording from 1979 and the track that first brought them to my attention. I have this track on 12 inch vinyl. It is still as sophisticated today as it was in 1979 and is at the jazzier end of Incognito's oeuvre. Their biggest hits - the Stevie Wonder number Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing brought the audience to their feet whilst their version of another Wonder song As kept them there. And of course, Always There which served as the finale brought the house down, with terrific vocals from Vanessa Haynes so memorably performed by Jocelyn Brown on Incognito's recording of this Ronnie Laws track back in 1990.

Ms. Haynes had also impressed earlier with her lead vocal on Ain't It Time You Went Home, described by Bluey as his version of a New York disco track from the 1970's - and this one had them dancing too. Whilst on the subject of vocalists, Natalie Williams, current darling of Ronnie Scott's was also on terrific form and new band member, Katie Leone took the stage to lead on one number and managed to win over the audience with a very big voice from a very petite frame! Lots more to look forward to from her. And it wasn't just the vocalists that shone. Francesco Mendolia and Joao Caetano played a stunning duet and the horns trio of Sidney Gauld, Jamie Anderson and Alistair White were also outstanding. Loved the footwork too boys!

All good stuff but the highlight for me was George Duke's Brazilian Love Affair which sounded exactly like the original - really - with that tinkling percussive intro, hard bass and keyboards and soaring vocals taking my right back to 1980 when I first heard the original which included Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento on vocals. Duke, such a loss. A great evening that sent me home thinking I must buy a turntable so I can get my vinyl out again!

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