Up Close and Personal with Incognito - Featuring Maysa - B.B. King Blues Club New York- April 2, 2013

by Karen Brundage-Johnson, Ph.D

We were up close and personal with British acid jazz band Incognito featuring Maysa as they wowed a sell-out crowd at B.B. King Blues Club New York, Tuesday, April 2, 2013. This was the first night in New York on their ten day US tour. For 34 years, this multi-cultural band has recorded numerous hit singles featuring driving rhythms, soulful and harmonious vocals punctuated by the band`s unmistakeable trademark horn sections.

To the audience’s surprise, bandleader, composer and producer Jean-Paul Maunick “Bluey”, walked on stage unannounced to greet everyone as if we were all old friends. He then dedicated tonight’s performance to Jazz legend, Donald Byrd. Baltimore’s own Jazz soul songstress Maysa Leak retains the role of lead vocalist alongside vocalists Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes and Natalie Williams. The exceptional rhythm section includes musical director Matt Cooper, keyboards ; Francis Hylton, bass; Francesco Mendolia, drums; João Caetano, Percussion; Sid Gauld, trumpet; Jamie Anderson, saxophone/flute; Trevor Mires, trombone/ flugelhorn.

The band opened the concert with the with a funky instrumental, featuring the superb horn section on “Roots (Back To A Way Of Life)" featuring Vanessa Haynes. Next Natalie Williams sang the thought provoking “Can't Get You Out Of My Head”. Then to a rousing round of applause, and if as on queue, the ceiling disco ball twirled filling the room with swirling light as Maysa joined the band to perform “Step Into My Life ; followed by "Change" and "Givin' It Up"; all songs she recorded earlier with the band. Everyone was on their feet grooving to Maysa’s signature scatting style and nice harmonies from the horn section.

Between various songs, Bluey told a few humorous stories, and shared his vision for the band. Tony was featured on Stevie Wonder's "As". Vanessa was featured on "Everyday". Maysa and Tony sang the beautiful duet, “Just One Of Those Days”. Another exciting moment was Natalie performing Minnie's Ripperton Inside Your Love to a chilling degree of accuracy. She almost blue the roof off the place hitting those notes just right!

The tight rhythm section performed a medley of their funky instrumentals, including "Espresso Madureira" "Colibri," and “Jacob's Ladder”. Guest vocalist Kelli Sae joined the band taking the lead vocals on the high energy “Nights Over Egypt”. Bluey shared that he and Kelli collaborated on the Global Relief Song for Hurricane Sandy & Typhoon Bopha, entitled "Brighter Than the Sun". 100% of net proceeds will benefit disaster relief charities “Rebuilding Together” and UNICEF UK.

The band took their bows, however, the audience didn't want to see them leave the stage. Incognito returned with "Always There". Bluey then asked the audience if they had a request. The resounding response was for Maysa to sing their classic, emotional tune “Deep Waters”, which she sang as if this song was only meant for her to sing. This finale brought this two-hour performance to a very satisfying close.

Incognito took us back to the days of disco and jazz-funk. There was a mixture of old school and new as well as the unexpected. One of those unexpected moments happened when Bluey had the band switch instruments. We had no idea what was about to happen. Everyone played effortlessly proving that they are incredibly diverse at playing multiple instruments. The band was in the pocket from the first note to the last. Clearly, it all worked tonight to everyone’s enjoyment!

More images from the event are in
The Art of Live Jazz

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