Technically, Incognito were justified in claiming a 30th anniversary in 2009, in the sense that Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick and Paul "Tubbs" Williams began calling their band by that name (after stints as New Life and Light of the World) in 1979, even though they did not release their first Incognito album, Jazz Funk, until 1981, and then the act went dormant for a decade until Maunick resurrected it in 1991. By then, there was not much chance of this British jazz-funk big band getting significant attention in the U.S., because its sound was strictly out of the ‘70s-‘80s Earth, Wind & Fire songbook (with some smooth jazz side trips) and American R&B had moved on to rap and hip-hop. But that didn't keep them from building up a following in Europe and Asia in the ‘90s and 2000s while releasing a series of albums (with some moderately successful attempts to market them in the U.S. in the dance and contemporary jazz categories), and that is what is being celebrated on this double-CD live set, nearly 20 years of funky rhythms, punchy horn charts, and interchangeable soul singers. The inclusion of a small string section gives some of the tracks the feel of Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra, and the occasional performances of Motown standards ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Don't You Worry ‘Bout a Thing") contribute to the retro mood. Now and then an instrumental ("Jacob's Ladder," "Colibri," "Expresso Madureira") stakes the band's claim to smooth jazz legitimacy. Clearly, it all works for Incognito's British following, even if the sound is old school to American R&B ears.
Live in London: The 30th Anniversary Concert Review
by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2