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Incognito’s Bluey takes center stage with solo debut, ‘Leap of Faith’



Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick helped pioneer “acid jazz” movement with his funk/jazz/soul outfit Incognito. On March 26, the United Kingdom artist will release his solo debut, “Leap of Faith” (Shanachie Entertainment).

Incognito scored hits with versions of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” and Ronnie Laws’ “Always There,” selling more than a million records in the process.

Bluey reflects, “We have a sound of our own and we are not trying to follow anyone else’s groove,” Bluey says. “Incognito has never been a band that tries to dazzle with flashiness and technical prowess, we groove to make you move, we shift to uplift and we use captivating melodies to tell our stories.”

As a producer, songwriter and musician, Bluey has collaborated with a who’s who list in music including James Brown, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Chaka Khan, R. Kelly, Leon Ware, George Duke, Phillip Bailey Steve Gadd, Maxi Priest and countless others.

Now in his third decade of putting out chart-topping hits, vocalist and guitarist Bluey, 56, steps forward with his first outing as a leader on “Leap of Faith.”

“I get sheer joy from making music,” Bluey says. “I have massive gratitude that I am able to make a living from my labor of love.”

Up close and personal with Bluey

After all of these years, everyone wants to know why now is the time for Bluey’s solo debut?

I have always felt that my strength was in guiding others and bringing out the best of their artistry. For many singers and musicians being at the forefront is where they feel most comfortable and in control. I, on the other hand, have always felt comfortable leading from the back, as a goalkeeper in my schooldays and as a long-distance runner in my teens (encouraging my friends to stay together and wait for the front runners to fade). I have taken that stance in the studio and on stage with my band Incognito. The song “All I Want Is You” from “Adventures In Black Sunshine” was really the first time I was totally happy singing on an Incognito album. Though I have very rarely featured as a lead vocalist in Incognito’s catalogue of 15 studio albums, 2012 was the first time that I have felt a compelling desire to bare my soul in this way. One of my friends described this album as my musical autobiography. I think that comment hits the mark.

What was the creative process and how did it vary from the way you approach an Incognito album?

From the beginning, this has been as much a solo album for my co-writer/producer amigo Richard Bull, who shares my passion for getting something started, staying focused and seeing it through to its end as quickly as possible.

I am an ideas man and if I run something by the band, it goes through a maze of minds and creative spirits that makes it sound like a band, but on this project, the meeting of two like-minded souls with almost Jedi-like levels of communication meant less distractions and a quick, concise process.

Including the three collaborations with three keyboard legends — Matt Cooper, Ski Oakenfull and Simon Grey — it took us under a month to write, record, mix and master the album. Being the featured vocalist, I could tap into influences that may be familiar to folks who know my soul leanings like Shuggie Otis, Boz Scaggs, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Kashif, Don Blackman and Isley Brothers. You will find other vocal influences such as Hall and Oates, Beach Boys, Steve Miller and Peter Gabriel. On this record, I could also draw inspiration from a new generation of music makers such as Peven Everett, Labyrinth, The Beauty Room, Air, Bugge Wesseltoft, St. Germain and Mozez.

Incognito has strong ‘70s and ‘90s vibes where the band came into its own and forged a trademark sound; but on this album I dared to wander outside of my Incognito compound. You’ll even hear some mid-’80s influences.

The year started in Guadeloupe and Los Angeles and ended in Kenya. Only in this tranquil and carefree space in time, supported by my loved ones, at peace with myself, inspired by my musical collaborators and energized by the rays of the sun could I have done this.

In Incognito, I am surrounded by awesome musicians and singers, I needed to reach a place where I felt my voice had its own space and that my sound was not just a twist on the band’s theme. Once there it was just a matter of jumping in. Thus, “Leap Of Faith.”

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