June 14, 2024

Talking with the guru behind Incognito,
Inner Shade and Citrus Sun

Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick
by Mark Ruffin

Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, the leader of the huge English group, Incognito, is finding himself in the same situation George Clinton was in 25 years ago. Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick Incognito, like Funkadelic before it, is making too much music to wait for one record company to release one album a year.

Clinton solved the problem by getting deals for Parliament, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, the Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet, and the Horny Horns. Now following Maysa and Inner Shade, the group Citrus Sun has become Maunick’s third spin-off from his 70’s inspired jazz/funk mob with their debut album “Another Time, Another Space.”

“George Clinton is one of my heroes,” Maunick confirmed by phone from his London recording studio. “Along with Quincy Jones and Charles Stepney, these are the people who showed me how to encourage, how to organize and how to take care of my musicians.”

As was the case when Clinton had all those groups, Citrus Sun, as well as Incognito, Maysa and Inner Shade are all a distillation of the original vision of their leader. Citrus SunWhereas Maysa shows the pop/funk/vocal side of the mother group, and Inner Shade, it’s jazzier, drum n’ bass side, Citrus Sun wrings the 70’s instrumental ingredients out of the Incognito sound and heats it up with a modern smooth jazz flavor.

“The difference between my involvement with Incognito and Citrus Sun is that (on “Another Time, Another Space,”) I encouraged live playing and a more organic musical environment,” the producer explained. “When I produce Incognito, I dissect every sound and focus on sonic perfection. This was an opportunity for these guys to show what they can do. I was the boss, but we found a different way for me to steer the ship. It was a shared vision.”

He said that is not the case when many of these same guys perform under the guise of Inner Shade, describing it more as a direct offshoot of Incognito, complete with vocals, which Citrus Sun does not have.

“Inner Shade is like the Incognito album that I’m not doing,” he explained. “The next Inner Shade album will be much more Brazilian, which is where I’m not going with the Incognito album that I’m doing right now. I ‘m going much more r&b with it.”

Maunick also revealed that neither Maysa nor Jocelyn Brown is on the next Incognito record. Instead he will add four new vocalists to his incredible roster, including American singer Diane Joseph.

“The next Incognito record will be a real departure from the previous ones,” Maunick teased. “It’s more r&b sounding, but still with the Incognito flavor.”

The unique sounding horn section of Incognito does dominates the Citrus Sun record. But what makes the album different is the addition of guest stars Jim Mullen, who used to play guitar with the Average White Band, and the keyboardist from Simply Red, Tim Vine.

It is also interesting on the album to pick up on all the influences from the 70’s that these musicians display proudly throughout the eleven-track cd.

Mullen does a nice nod to Earth, Wind & Fire’s Al McKay on the song “Full Circle,” and there’s a very Roy Ayers like solo on “So What Can I Do?” Maunick even admitted to telling trumpeter Dominic Glover that he wanted him to sound like he was “in Donald Byrd’s living room,” on the track “What It Is.”

“This is a musicians’ project,” he emphasized, “I know they have to make a living, so told them to come and have some fun and keep it as a labor of love.

“Most bands have one kind of sound and they go with that,” he continued, “but with Incognito we’re so many things, that I have to find avenues to keep our interests alive and to keep our focus. Incognito can’t even survive putting out one record a year. I can’t make that kind of music and still hope to keep all those musicians together with one little tour.”

As usual, Incognito will be doing a North American tour to support their new upcoming album. As to whether any of his musicians will open or pick up gigs as Citrus Sun or Inner Shade depends on economics of course.

That’s one part of Clinton’s blueprint that he can’t pull off fully, and not just because of money. For one, as big as his group is, Incognito will never match the sheer number of musicians Clinton still carries with him to this day. And 25 years ago, each branch of the P-Funk mob had their own unique persona, complete with costumes.

“The last thing I want to do is bore people’s ears with the same band playing all night,” Maunick concluded.