Promises of worldwide fame and wealth have for years sent people running to the recording studio in the hopes of becoming “the next great (singer/rapper/producer).” You hear it all the time in the records. Added together, it just sounds like artists are constantly saying, “Look at me, look at me.” Does anybody still want to listen? Despite what’s being fed to us as consumers, the answer is a resounding yes. We still have artists who put music in the forefront.
Jean-Paul Maunick, for instance, fostered his love for music at an early age, nurtured it as he grew and now, as he has for at least three decades, bears the fruit of his labor. As a kid living on Mauritius Island near Madagascar, Maunick realized the power that music wields. “As I embraced at an early age this beautiful thing, I recognized that music transforms people. I remember seeing workers come out of a sugar cane field, their bodies looking weary and broken, and after a little rest, the musicians would arrive and play.
Suddenly, it was like they were mended. They were up spinning and singing like children in a playground. I would sit there in amazement and I would use that memory as a catalyst to use my music as a means to not only entertain, but to communicate, to teach and to heal,” Maunick said.
On March 26, Maunick released his debut solo album, “Leap of Faith,” under his stage name, “Bluey”. His new project provides a bit of a respite from the music that people have grown accustomed to, but not much. What’s important is that it’s a statement of where he is and where he’s headed in the future. “The title of the record is not just a nice-sounding title. It’s to do with being in a place where I feel the need to take chances or I may not have the opportunities if I don’t jump now. Not only do I want to pull my creativity in my band, but I want to expand and encompass all that I am in my art. I want to have a solo career, be an author; I formed a video company, so I just want to bring out another side to Bluey.”
For those in the know, Bluey, who wears the hats of guitarist, composer and producer, is the leader and face of one of the most respected bands in music, Incognito. After 15 albums, the England-based group is known for its consistent, organic mixture of jazz, soul and funk elements. To get a better feel of how these rhythms are concocted, I asked him if this was an accurate description of his sound, and if so, how he feels about the different genres.
To that he replied, “Jazz, soul and funk have a fine line that run through my life. There’s no divide. I’m of equal parts all three. I haven’t played or studied enough jazz to consider myself a purist, but jazz is so sophisticated that if you’re not toying with the idea of music, it’s kind of hard to get into at first. Jazz is the connection to the soul–not the genre of music, but the actual soul. But when I first heard it, it didn’t make that much sense to me; it was something that I just found attractive. Soul music, though, was my first love, and it changed my path.
I had one schoolteacher [who] overheard me lay guitar and he said to me, ‘I have a great song for you to learn, and he played the record on a small player. The song was Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine.’ And immediately I said to him, ‘Sir, this is the kind of music that I want to listen to.’ So he would then bring in other songs, like early Stevie Wonder. One day he brought in James Brown. Everything up until that point was this beautiful listening, and then I heard the funk after, which I needed to change my style of playing. I felt immediately connected as a musician to that style.”
He concluded, “It all came to a head in the year 1975, the year that I left school that I saw something that was actually going to change my life and gave me my first introduction to jazz, soul and funk, all in one. My cousin had taken me to see the group Santana, and it was [playing with] a band whose name that I didn’t recognize but had an intriguing name. That band was a group called Earth, Wind and Fire. That completely changed where I wanted to go. I saw the guy they introduced as Maurice White–in the white suit playing the kalimba–and I knew he was the ringleader, the mad scientist, and I wanted to create a form of music that would stand up to that sound, define me and redefine music. We didn’t change the face of music; we just brought our own brand.”
Now stateside, catch Bluey and the Incognito with Maysa at B.B. King’s (237 W. 42nd St.) on Tuesday, April 2 and Wednesday, April 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35. Also at B.B. King’s on Easter Sunday (March 31) is Tevin Campbell.
Over and done, peoples. Holla next week. ‘Til then, enjoy the nightlife.