Incognito: Live in London 30th Anniversary 2009 (Blu-ray) 2010 DTS-HD Master Audio
Pop music success is often predicated on strange things, but having a memorable name certainly doesn't hurt. One therefore wouldn't think a band coining its name after a word which means hiding one's identity would be a smart marketing idea. But perhaps Incognito's moniker means something a bit more subtle, namely that there isn't a star front man, that this is instead a team effort with each individual blending seamlessly into the greater whole.
And what an incredible, unbelievably visceral whole this band is, as is amply documented on this riveting 30th anniversary concert, recorded in London in 2009.
Acid jazz is a genre that can be hard to define, but Incognito has rightly been hailed as one of the progenitors of this groove-centric music that combines elements of jazz, funk and looped beats to create a music that, at least in Incognito's case, might be likened to old 70's Scottish funk icons The Average White Band riffing behind a bevy of soulful vocalists stylistically akin to Chaka Khan. In fact, Incognito's low key founder, Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick, has produced for Chaka, as well as other notable music stars such as George Benson and Maxi Priest. Maunick creates unbelievably propulsive rhythmic grooves which are punctuated with perfectly synchronized brass outbursts and then gorgeously segue into cool chords with layered voices drifting over extended tones like sevenths, ninths and elevenths to create a unique and undeniably forceful sound.
The band's two hour and 50 minute set includes:
When the Sun Comes Down
Centre of the Sun
Get Into My Groove
Labour of Love
Ain't No Mountain
This Thing Called Love
Still a Friend of Mine
Can't Get You Out of My Head
Wild and Beautiful
Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
I Hear Your Name
Nights Over Egypt
The British music scene seems to have a more serious love affair with retro-R&B inflected funk than its cousin across the pond. So many fantastic British artists have mined this idiom, including everyone from Lisa Stansfield to Portishead, that the Brits seems to have cornered the market on driving rhythms infused with cool jazz and funk elements. Incognito has really only had two chart hits of any impact, but they have fostered a rabid fan base by virtue of their dynamic live performances. And indeed this concert proves why the band is such a visceral experience. In a staggering set lasting almost three hours, the group traverses through 23 songs barely stopping long enough to catch their collective breath.
Incognito arrives on Blu-ray with a sharp looking AVC encoded transfer delivered in full 1080p in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are several odd looking moments in this concert, due to the glaring blue light, which gives an absolutely hallucinogenic, "posterization" look to various members of the band. In fact, Vanessa Haynes' Afro assumes almost lifelike proportions at times under this somewhat bizarre lighting scheme, so be prepared. If you can get past that aspect of the concert, as well as the less than perfect camera work, what is here is sharp as a tack and full of abundant clarity. You can see dust mites flying behind Biggin as he hammers the drums, and close-ups reveal every line, for better or worse, on each of the participants' faces.
The LPCM 5.1 track has amazing depth and hall presence, with excellent separation of the Millenia String Ensemble. The 2.0 fold down tends to place the singers out in front of the mix more strongly. There's also less thundering bass on this track. What can't be denied is the amazing fidelity of both of these tracks. I spent most of the time with the 5.1, and I've rarely heard such a fantastically robust track, despite the sometimes overpowering low end. This is definitely one Blu-ray you'll want to "turn up to 11."