The enduring success of Incognito is one of the great stories of UK music during the last 20 years. Look at the recent history of soulful UK artists and you will find any number of short-lived acts that have achieved pop success. Narrow the list to those that have created a uniquely British sound and that have endured as a global phenomenon on their own terms and the list becomes short. Dues, then, to Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick and Incognito, formed in 1980 and celebrating 25 years of positive vibes and undiluted jazz funk in 2005.
From an early age, the UK live scene was a key inspiration for Bluey, having moved to London from his native Mauritius aged ten. Defining moments for me? Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, of course, Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang. But the real link to Incognito was UK bands like Gonzalez and FBI. These were people that lived in your town and walked your streets.
My first band was New Life with David Grant, he remembers, his cousin later managed Light Of The World. I worked in his record shop in Tottenham and we'd rehearse upstairs. Some of the future Light Of The World musicians band would pop in to jam. I switched from bass to guitar when Paul 'Tubs' Williams came in, he was only 14 and blew everyones minds. Spawning a new band, the name Tower Block was changed to the more uplifting Light Of The World and, in 1978, Chris Hill's Ensign imprint promptly signed them. We ended up at Phonogram Studios and could suddenly buy any equipment we wanted in their shop. No one stopped to think I can buy a car! All we could see was wah wah pedals and phaser units! The self-titled LOTW debut was a landmark for UK jazz funk featuring extended high energy club hits Swingin and Midnight Groovin, as well as a young Sade pictured on the cover.
British jazz funk bands created a scene to an extent but we didn't embrace each other enough, reflects Bluey. It was about blowing each other off stage. We'd know musicians but didn't like the way certain guys dressed. In the end, punk came along and stopped it in its tracks. In the 70's, there was a healthy live circuit in London. From pubs, you could graduate to the Q Club, Upstairs At Ronnies. By the early 80's, we relied on DJs like Chris Hill booking a band for weekenders. I formed Incognito because I really wanted to take the music to the next level. My vision was to be a producer, a writer and part of a musical community. As Jocelyn Brown has said, we're in the business of music, not the music business.