Another year passes and another Incognito album comes along. Or at least it seems that way. And that’s how it’s been now for thirty years (although, admittedly, there was a decade-long hiatus between the group’s 1981 debut album ‘Jazz Funk’ and 1991’s sophomore set, ‘Inside Life’).
Yes, it may be hard to believe, but Bluey Maunick’s classy jazz-funk collective have been making records for more years than Alicia Keys has been on the planet. But youngsters like Keys could learn from Incognito’s longevity – in an era when today’s heroes are tomorrow’s zeros, Bluey and co have made durability an art form. They’ve never sacrificed their own musical identity and haven’t chased trends and made a fetish out of the latest fads – instead, they’ve just adhered to a simple manifesto of making good, honest, heart-felt music.
Consistency is the group’s strength and undoubtedly that’s why they’ve never ever made a bad record. Their latest and thirteenth long player, ‘Transatlantic RPM,’ possesses all the same key ingredients that made previous albums by the group so palatable and pleasing: strong, well-crafted songs, great vocal performances plus tight, ensemble work and deft, jazz-inflected arrangements.
What distinguishes this set from previous outings is the presence of luminaries like soul legends Chaka Khan and Leon Ware, whose contributions elevate the band to new heights. The opening cut is a superb funk-infused cover of Boz Scaggs’ ‘Lowdown,’ with Chaka trading phrases with gravel-voiced cult Italian soul meister, Mario Biondi. Chaka goes it alone on a tune she-co-penned, ‘The Song,’ which is a mellow, mid-tempo groover with some tasty string sweetening. Mario Biondi also does his own thing on ‘Can’t Get Enough,’ a turbo-charged minor key groove with an insistent chorus.
Other striking cameos come from Tortured Soul’s Christian Urich on the breezy, Latin-infused ‘Let’s Fall In Love Again,’ hip-hop poetess Ursula Rucker on the mesmeric ‘Gotta,’ and rapper Luckyiam on ‘Everything That We Are.’ Veteran soul man, Leon Ware, imbues ‘Line In The Sand’ with his trademark sensuality. Other noteworthy participants include ex-Earth Wind & Fire guitar player, Al McKay, and erstwhile Jamiroquai bass player, Stuart Zender. Incognito’s regular vocalists, the wonderful Maysa Leak, Joy Rose, Vanessa Haynes and Tony Momrelle also make sterling contributions to an album that’s probably the best yet from Bluey Maunick’s crew. Who said thirteen was an unlucky number? (the album is out on Shanachie in the USA).