B. B. King’s Blues Club
New York, NY
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Review & photos by Ernest Barteldes
Appearing before a sold-out audience at the Times Square blues club, bandleader Bluey led his Incognito through a 30-song set that covered every significant moment from the band’s 30-plus career, kicking off with a couple of instrumentals that focused on the horn section’s tight chops. The tunes had a strong late 70s Jorge Ben-like Brazilian funk feel, especially during trombonist Trevor Mires’ solos. Following that, vocalist Vanessa Haynes made her entrance and led the group through “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” She was later joined by co-lead vocalists Tony Momrelle and Natalie Williams, who all sang four-part harmonies along with Bluey, who was celebrating the release of his debut solo album Leap of Faith (Shanachie).
The bandleader then paused to introduce the singer he described as “my muse, my Aretha Franklin,” referring to Baltimore-born Maysa, who joined the ensemble for “Don’t Turn My Love Away” and “Step Into My Life,” the latter which she declared to be her ‘favorite Incognito song.’ The band sounded very strong with the union of the five voices on those songs. At one moment, the band members switched instruments and went through two numbers with Bluey on lead vocal. It was quite interesting to see the versatility of these musicians – bassist Francis Hylton moved to keyboards, percussionist Joao Caetano took over the bass, drummer Francesco Mendolia went to lead guitar while Haynes played percussion and Williams joined the horn section on trumpet.
Maysa rejoined the ensemble several times through the set, and that included a heartfelt duet with Momrelle on “Wild and Peaceful.” Among other highlights was a tribute to Motown that showcased a very personal rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Always” with Momrelle on lead vocals and a ripping rendition of Leon Ware’s “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” with Williams on lead, who hit every single high note without missing a beat. The band also looked back into their instrumental jazz band past with a performance of “Parisian Girl,” the first single ever recorded by Incognito.
It would be impossible to describe Incognito’s entire set, which went on for over two hours and a half, but it was a joyful set played with no interruptions – the audience was on their feet the entire time, moving to the group’s uptempo beats and their incessant energy.