Album Review: Leap of Faith, Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick (Shanachie, March 2013)

imagesTo die-hard Incognito fans like me, the news of co-founder and premier songwriter Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick’s debut solo release came with some cautious optimism. Optimistic because Bluey is a brilliant songwriter and producer. Cautious because without his usual cadre of Incognito collaborators, I wondered what would be left behind.

Stylistically, the album has a fairly broad range, from R&B tracks like “Take a chance on me” and “Keep myself together” to “Live like a millionaire,” a fun-filled ode to the Isley Brothers’ “It’s your thing.” Bluey even uses spoken word in the title track, telling Nelson Mandela’s story through verse, overtop a heavy bass groove. My favourite track, however, is “If you really wanna,” laden with breezy acoustic guitars and vocals.

The first single, “Got to let my feelings show,” is an uplifting and danceable track, driven by syncopated synth lines from  Domenic ‘Ski’ Oakenfull. Oakenfull, a former Incognito keyboardist, also lends his production chops to “Ain’t nobody’s business but my own,” the most electronically influenced track in the collection.

The vocals Incognito fans have come to expect accompanying this calibre of songs are normally delivered by spectacular talents like Maysa Leak, Tony Momrelle, and more recently, Natalie Williams. Bluey’s vocals are not as distinctive or powerful but that’s hardly a criticism. Making his ‘leap of faith’ to put this record out, you have to give it to Bluey for trying something outside of his tried and true formula for success. His vocals, though unfamiliar at first, emerge into an authentic style that Maunick and his fans can embrace.

Stepping outside of the Incognito umbrella, Maunick has remained whole and revealed something new. Leap of Faith is a remarkable outing from a legend in jazz-funk and R&B who proves again he is an endless source of great songs and satisfying grooves.

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