Personnel: Camilla Pay (harp); Jamie Anderson (flute, saxophone); Sid Gould (trumpet, flugelhorn); Alistair White (trombone); Matt Cooper (keyboards); Francesco Mendolia (drums); Joao Caetano (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Mo Hausler.
Recording information: Francis' Studio; Higher Ground; Matt's Studio; Primaudial; Swazi Sound Studio.
Photographers: Takami Maunick; José Lasheras; Giuliano Eboulia.
After collaborating with the likes of Chaka Khan, spoken word artist Ursula Rucker, and Italian soul singer Mario Biondi on 2010's Transatlantic RPM, British acid jazz pioneers Incognito hand over the vocal reins to a younger crowd for their 15th studio album, Surreal. It's an inspired move showing that, 30 years on from their debut album, bandleader Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick still has his finger on the pulse. While longtime singers Maysa and Vanessa Haynes remain a vital part of the setup, the former kicking off proceedings in style with the bass-driven funk of "The Less You Know," the latter channeling the divas of the Studio 54 era on a cover of Queen Yahna's '70s cult disco classic "Ain't It Time," it's the new recruits who steal the show. German-born vocalist Mo Brandis displays a maturity and soulfulness far beyond his 26 years on the John Legend-esque lead single "Goodbye to Yesterday" and the summery jazz of "Don't Wanna Know," while Ronnie Scott's regular Natalie Williams justifies the Erykah Badu/Jill Scott comparisons on the gorgeously slinky chillout of "Restless as We Are" and the dreamy bossa nova of "The Stars from Here." If they can hang on to this highly talented lineup, then Incognito's future appears to be in very safe hands indeed. ~ Jon O'Brien