For 25 years now, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick’s U.K.-based Incognito has pumped out acid jazz on the funk ’n’ soul tip, with an abundance of brass and smoky female vocals. The band’s last several CDs proved that Incognito can jam but suffered from too much of a good thing, which is why Bluey’s 12th effort is the right CD at the right time. The in-your-face brass attack has given way to stripped-down acoustics and a 16-piece string section conducted by Simon Hale that adds cinematic sweep.
Instead of all-new tunes, however, what longtime fans get to hear is new versions of favorites such as “Always There,” “Still a Friend of Mine” and “Deep Waters.” There are also three new tracks. However, the best material here is the amazingly fresh cover tunes. Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” is a deliciously slow groove, while the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” America’s “Tin Man,” Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World” and Ronnie Laws’ “Always There” are stripped to their essentials.
Vocalists Maysa, Carleen Anderson, Jocelyn Brown, Tony Momrelle, Joy Rose and Imaani keep the music sufficiently soulful and spiritual.