By Franklin Abbott
Bluey, born Jean-Paul Maunick, is originally from the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius. He spent most of his childhood there before moving to the UK. He has led the acid jazz band Incognito since he formed it in 1979. The band has gone on to produce 15 studio albums, while Bluey has worked as a producer with George Benson, Maxi Priest, Terry Callier and has worked collaboratively with Stevie Wonder. Bluey and Incognito will be performing this Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Cobb Energy Center. INtown caught up with Bluey, who answered questions about the band and his creative process.
You come from a creative family. How did your parents, especially your poet father Eduard Maunick, influence you to become a musician?
By genetics… Sadly my father was not in my life growing up. Though I have cousins and uncles that are musicians, I made my own way. Hearing music on the beaches of Mauritius and seeing people dance were my earliest memories. Influenced by what I saw and heard, I made instruments from empty cans and boxes and created a band teaching my friends what rhythms to play. I was already a band leader before my 8th birthday. I bought my first guitar when I was 11 with money that I earned from working in a beetroot pickling factory. I always knew that I was going to have a band and that music was going to be a constant in my life.
What was the inspiration for Incognito and who were some of your influences?
I was inspired to have a group that has horns, percussion and voices after seeing Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang and Tower Of Power in the 70’s. The Jazz Funk edge came from listening and dancing to the likes of Ronnie Laws, Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds in clubs. Composition and production influences came from Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers, The Mizell Brothers, The Average White Band, Heatwave (Rod Temperton) Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Rufus & Chaka Khan.
Do you have a favorite Incognito album or song?
A man cannot have a favourite amongst his children. I am currently very proud of and enjoying playing “Just Say Nothing” from our new album “In Search Of Better Days.”
What is your creative process like?
There is no formula. I write everyday. I sing melodies on the phone recorder, I keep bits of papers with lyrics in my pockets and I jam with my band at sound checks and in my studio as often as time allows. I am constantly harvesting the ingredients that will end up in the musical pot and served as a finished song.
You have played with some very famous artists including Chaka Khan. What are those collaborations like?
They are basically dreams coming true. You cannot plan for that stuff; it happens serendipitously because you have subconsciously put it into effect with your body of work and and it’s quality. When in a room with the likes of Chaka Khan, George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Phillip Bailey, Al Jarreau or Leon Ware, I can separate Bluey the fan from Bluey the Songwriter / Producer / Musician without loosing my great admiration for these legendary artists. It’s all incredibly exciting though!
What is the essence of what you want to leave your audiences with at the end of each show?
We play for their smiles. I want them to leave feeling as I did as a teenager who had just seen Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang or Tower Of Power. Uplifted, inspired and yoyous!
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and writer, consultant and community organizer.