In the majestic setting of the Teatro Municipale of Piacenza, as part of the PiacenzaJazzFest, a very well received festival with wonderful jazz artists present this year such as Benny Golson, Kenny Garrett and Regina Carter, it was the turn of Incognito to grace the rather big stage.
The legendary London based band formed by Jean-Paul Maunick (alias Bluey) in 1979, along with Brand New Heavies, Galliano and Jamiroquai to name a few, created and led the Acid-Jazz movement of the mid 80’s and early 90’s that led to mainstream notoriety.
Being in the throes of a jazz festival with a sophisticated and enthusiastic jazz friendly crowd, tonight Bluey and his 12 band members play a very varied set allowing much space for his musicians to shine with solos, ad lib band sequences and grooves in the captivating 2 hours on stage. But with 4 vocalists, Imaani, Joy Rose, Katie Leone and Gary leading the way, the soul/disco element is very much alive too. The singers are simply mesmerizing each one in their own way, making the songs come alive, cajoling the audience to participate as well. Indeed in the latter part of the concert there is a crowd dancing, footloose and fancy free, which rarely happens certainly in this edifice, but such is the fun being had on stage amongst the band members , it becomes contagious, enticing many to get out of their velvet lined seats and ‘get down’! It’s a mission for Bluey to “make you smile” for two hours plus. Happiness indeed is an Incognito concert.
Tonight’s set opens with ‘Echoes Of Utopia’ with just the band strutting their stuff in this funky jam which builds and builds ably led by Matt Cooper and his cool chords on keyboards and Bluey’s rhythm guitar. As the singers join the band, the soulful melodic songs of Incognito like ‘1975’, ‘N.O.T’ and ‘Good Love’ come to the fore each of the girls taking lead vocals in turn. ‘Still A Friend Of Mine’ is a dream of a track with Imaani and Gary trading vocal licks perfectly. The fantastic ‘Colibri’ follows each of the band musicians taking centre stage and indeed the sax licks of Andy Ross and Francis Hylton’s bass solo are certainly as exalting and of quality as any of the jazz musicians solos performed during this festival.
A fascinating drum (Francesco Mendolia) and percussion (Joao Caetano) combo follows acting as an interlude for the absolutely stunning ‘Deep Waters’, echoes of EW&F ‘Can’t Hide Love’ thrown into the proceedings with all performers absolutely in the moment as they gel tightly together.
Then it’s time to dance as ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’, ‘Always There’, ‘I Hear Your Name’ and ‘Everyday’ all enthrall. The evening closes with the cover ‘Night Over Egypt’ and as Bluey sends out messages of love and Peace and how we should respect human life its abundantly apparent that Incognito have accomplished their mission; there is a smile on everyone’s face :)