Never knowingly undersouled

George Benson wanted to get back to his roots. So he called Bluey.

The chorus of a much-loved old Crusaders jazz-funk anthem goes: "Keep on, keep that same old feeling". The group Incognito (property of writer, guitarist and producer Jean-Paul Maunick, aka Bluey) has kept on keeping on since the late 1970s, when car stickers saying "If it ain't jazz it ain't worth a funk" were de rigueur for Escort-driving aspirational soul boys and girls. Then, the in-car entertainment was driven by the selections of Sunday night radio's Robbie Vincent Show, the essential guide to that terra incognita where smooth soul began to shade into jazzy funk, and vice versa.

A true child of those times, Bluey didn't just keep the faith - achieving the amazing feat of still being hip enough 10 years after his group's debut album to earn a place in Gilles Peterson's inaugural Talkin' Loud roster - he began gradually to exert an influence on his original inspirations: those jazz-funk legends whose successful way with a svelte, old-school groove had given way with time to musical flab.

As well as completing a new Incognito album, 100 and Rising, Bluey has also been doing the production for the latest album by George Benson, adding a couple of tracks to a forthcoming Ramsey Lewis set, and fielding offers from Al Jarreau. It's the tail wagging the dog, as the story has come full circle with a London soul-boy neophyte eventually getting the opportunity to turn his heroes back on to the roots they left behind in a surfeit of MOR over-styling. It's also a very unlikely scenario. A few years ago, Incognito live was the party band par excellence but little else, a dead cert for all kinds of functions, putting out "Always There" and other jazz-funk greats with a line-up of Jazz Warrior horns and a shifting amalgam of vocalists; Jocelyn Brown, of "Always There" fame, was too expensive to take out on the road, and the band had to make do with deps. They could even be relied upon for requests of old war-horses by the likes of Lonnie Liston Smith; if Irish showbands had cottoned on to jazz-funk, Incognito would be the band to beat.

So when producer Tommy LiPuma called with the offer of producing the new Benson album, it was, for Bluey, "like a guy getting picked for the international side and finding out he's been made captain on the same day; it was a call from God, know what I mean?, a call from your master saying 'Cool'." He was already drowning in respect since Stevie Wonder had picked out Incognito's version of "Don't You Worry about a Thing" as the best cover of one of his songs. "I've got a host of American stars calling me," Bluey says, "and I think that it's because I remind them of themselves; I remind them of something they already are but have somehow got away from and become a little bit cabaret."

So what, then, has he got? "They made the music, but as a listener I was romantically attached to it," he says. "When I open up a Stevie Wonder, George Benson or Santana album I remember that girlfriend, that summer at school; I remember that playing field and that acoustic guitar, chilling out and playing that tune. It's like a photograph album. They thought that you had to keep changing and that you had to start using the technology that was the going thing. But those records weren't made because of the technology. They were made because of the emotional content. What I'm trying to do with my music is still rely on the emotional content. I'm trying to make you weep."

There is, however, some corporate unease over the Benson album, as its release has been put back from this summer to next year. Bluey, though, is too busy putting "know what I mean" on the end of sentences to care.

His new single, Incognito's "Everyday", is already high in the charts and it represents perfectly the credo for his music: the bass slaps, the keyboard supplies a housey update on the old-school chords, the strings soar with Philly soul and the guest vocalists do their trademark stuff on lyrics that, for all their banality (eg "A love like ours should surely last until the end of time"), are absolutely representative of the jazz- funk thang.

"I'm not afraid of the subject of love," says Bluey. "I'm not afraid of sounding lush, and I'm not trying to sound like the old days, 'cos I was part of the old days. I've never stopped using the Fender Rhodes since the Seventies, because it's like, is there anything else?" The new album, with lush strings (by Simon Hale) and horny horns (by Gerard Presencer), is commendably old-school, with some lovely laid-back instrumentals. At its best it's like driving to Brighton and back in your cabriolet with the sound system blasting out jazz-funk greats. This time, however, they're Bluey's own.

n '100 and Rising' is released this week on the Talkin' Loud label

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all