Louis Fulford-Smith

Live Review: Incognito with Carleen Anderson @ The Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival

Louis Fulford-Smith
Live Review: Incognito with Carleen Anderson @ The Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival

Although their identity and their mission is as clear and direct as any other, there’s a certain kind mystery behind the British Acid-Jazz superorgansim, that is: Incognito. 

With a befuddlingly long and unimaginably impressive list of alumni and previous guest performers, one gets the impression that each performance is as fresh and ephemeral as the next. 

Taking the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival’s Friday spotlight at The O2 with guest vocalist Carleen Anderson, the show’s opening half was a vibrant medley of heavy hitting, impossibly funky grooves laid down by drummer Francesco Mendolia and Bassist Francis Hylton. 

Cycling through a cocktail of their own repertoire with other figures from the Jazz/Funk/Soul lexicon, the band truly flexed their collectively weighty music muscles,  moving the notably middle aged audience from a shuffle, to a swing, to a full on drunken boogie.

The halfway mark saw the spotlight turn to guest vocalist and former lead singer of the Young Disciples, Carleen Anderson, who, whilst helming the keys, reduced the room to a murmur with her outstanding gospel infused cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. This moment of the night stood out to me as a particularly special example of how groups such as Incognito, with instrumental mastery as the ABC of their profession, can manage to keep their seemingly endless procession of shows fresh for themselves and the audience with guest appearances, and solo performances.

It is likely that the band themselves were hearing the Anderson rendition for the first time that night, which judging by the performance of the second half, asked even more of the rest of the band, who after the solo retook the stage and continued the party. 

Meandering through exceedingly tight grooves with solos being passed around the eleven piece, the penultimate juncture of the show saw frontman Bluey give thanks to the festival organisers, before submitting an aptly emotional reminder to give love and be loved by our brothers and sisters of the world in his typically cool Bluey kind of way.

The melting pot of nationalities in Incognito allows for not only a rich palette of backgrounds and musical creeds, but also for their message to be conveyed in a distinctly unique way. Sneaking backstage I managed to briefly catch up with a few of the members, who all gave the impression that they’d given a suitably special contribution to this year’s Jazz and Blues festival which left me, along with my slightly older yet equally as ecstatic counterparts totally blown out the water.