Jazz changes faces with Incognito

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Jazz changes faces with Incognito

“I was smitten,” Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick says. He was only five years old when the music of Mauritius, the island nation in the heart of the Indian Ocean, first crept into his consciousness. He may have emigrated to England at the age of 10, but the memory of that music never left him.
Maunick started a music collective in 1979 called Incognito, which would pioneer the “acid jazz” movement. With each album, the group’s lineup changes; Maunick says he has worked with 1,500 musicians. From albums like “Jazz Funk” in 1981 to “Who Needs Love,” released in 2002, Incognito has often taken a funky, upbeat approach to jazz. They are coming to Korea to perform Tuesday at Dom Hall, Children’s Grand Park, bringing a three-piece horn section, percussionists, two keyboardists, a bass player and four vocalists.

What’s it like working with so many musicians?
It’s like sitting down for a meal to find that someone has bothered to really tenderize the meat, marinate the vegetables and prepare the sauces with love. For me, the musicians I work with have spent that time marinating. They’re jazz musicians. They haven’t picked up instruments because they want to be famous. They’ve been affected by music in a way that many others can’t even get to.

How big is your record collection?
Most of my records burned in a fire. But my son is a record producer and a deejay, so he has something like 10,000 vinyls. He’s come through the same journey: jazz, soul, drum and bass, rap. People’s personal record collections chart the journey of their lives.

What’s the journey of your music?
It changes because life changes. A musician’s story, just like a writer’s story, is a captain’s log. Whether it’s healing a rift with a partner, a make-up, a breakup, all those things are in my songs. In therapy, they tell you to write everything down. Songwriting is my therapy. Sometimes what people are getting is me lying down on the couch ― I should be paying people to listen to me.

What’s the “Who Needs Love” album about?
There is a lot of Brazilian influence in it, because I was watching the World Cup every day. I’m a big fan of Brazil, as Mauritius has no chance of being in the World Cup. But you’ll find in Brazil that same vibrancy, that color.
If you look at that record beneath the surface, it’s organic, introspective. I had just been through a divorce. I was not expecting to meet anyone, but I found someone, without looking. I didn’t just want to celebrate what I had found, but also reflect on the things that have gone on before. On that album, I celebrate in a way that you’ll celebrate someone’s life in their passing. I’m celebrating that life, and my newfound love.
What’s going on at your record label, Rice Records?
I’m working on three or four projects. I did some remixes of Japanese artists, “One Nation.” Then there’s my first pop project, with Ben Adams. He’d recorded a demo in his bedroom, and when I listened, I was blown away that a 21-year-old could be so talented.

Your music has such a positive vibe.
That’s my journey. I think it’s my duty to make people smile and dance. If I don’t leave them with a positive message, the kind that the musicians on Mauritius, and my great-grandfather, left me with, I would be cheating myself and other human beings.


by Joe Yong-hee

Incognito performs 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Dom Hall of Children’s Grand Park, subway line No. 7, southern Seoul. For tickets, go to www.metiscom.co.kr.
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