Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Citrus Sun: Sunny Delight

Citrus Sun
Citrus Sun

The arrival this month through ever-reliable British indie Dome of the 10-track album “People Of Tomorrow” interestingly marks the long-overdue re-emergence of Citrus Sun - the largely-instrumental contemporary jazz group initially created by Incognito leader/producer Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick way back in 2000 via the release of said outfit’s only previous album “Another Time Another Space”.

Indeed, once more prominently featuring alongside Bluey respected UK guitarist Jim Mullen - whose credits in a 40-year career include the likes of US-chart-topping Scottish funkers Average White Band, American jump blues legend Jimmy Witherspoon and pioneering Eighties British jazz/funk duo Morrissey-Mullen - Citrus Sun’s eight-member line-up is today interestingly completed by Galliano/Jamiroquai songstress Valerie Etienne (who on “People Of Tomorrow” contributes vocals to two covers - a gently-swaying update of Terry Callier’s “What Color Is Love” and a creatively-funky interpolation of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”) together with Incognito members Matt Cooper (keyboards), Francis Hylton (bass); Francesco Mendolia (drums); Joao Caetano (percussion); and Dominic Glover (trumpet).

All of which leads to a consistent, high-quality set whose eight freshly-penned instrumental tracks vary from its two Latin jazz-flavoured openers “Mais Uma Vez” and “Tonight We Dance” (both of which resulted from Bluey listening to US jazz flautist Herbie Mann’s inspirational 1965 album “Latin Mann: Afro To Bossa To Blues”) to the more Incognito-flavoured groover “Cooking With Walter”, the undulating, midtempo “You’re So Far Away”, plus the ethereal, spacey closer “Micia”.

... Cue aforementioned Brit-jazz/funk legend and all-round good-guy Bluey calling up long-time industry friend, “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a revealing mid-Monday-morning chat.

PETE: What was the thinking behind you now releasing the second Citrus Sun album 14 years after the first, 2000’s “Another Time Another Space”?

BLUEY: “Well, the last Citrus Sun album was instrumental, this one is predominantly instrumental… And so releasing “People Of Tomorrow” for me is basically just an opportunity to give that big worldwide following of Incognito fans that love instrumentals - and have been asking me for more OF them for a number of years - exactly what they WANT. Plus with Citrus Sun I am able to kinda run a side-project which not only incorporates pretty much the entire Incognito rhythm-section but also gives me a chance to work with one of my favourite musicians of all TIME, Jim MULLEN! Because while I have over the years had the opportunity to work with some great, great guitarists - I’ve even produced George Benson - for me collaborating with Jim is never anything less than a total, absolute joy.”

PETE: So will Citrus Sun now become more of an ongoing permanent project?

BLUEY: “Yeah, for me it’s gonna be a no-brainer to from now on keep making Citrus Sun albums as WELL as Incognito albums. Not only because of the obvious fact that, as I say, it will give me a greater outlet for instrumentals, but also because with Citrus Sun I will be able to have this little unit where I don’t have to cart a really big band around the world and where I can do more low-key GIGS. Because while it does definitely suit my mentality to be able to do the big concerts, at the same time I also really love playing small CLUBS. And with Citrus Sun I will be able to feed and tap into that small-club mentality even MORE… Plus on a personal level for me it does work well to be able to step away from Incognito for a while to do some gigs with another group of people that I love and then come back REFRESHED.”

PETE: Do you feel your way of working in the studio with Citrus Sun differs from when you’re producing Incognito?

BLUEY: “Citrus Sun is much more of an everybody-throw-something-in-the pot thing than Incognito. In that while with Incognito I’m more in control, this is much more open to a contribution from EVERYBODY. We get in the studio, we jam, and people can bring idea FORWARD - whereas with Incognito I tend to GO to someone rather than them coming to ME. You know, it’s really my concept and as a producer I make CHOICES, whereas with Citrus Sun everybody just brings stuff to the table and we all LISTEN... So yeah, while obviously I’m still the producer, with Citrus Sun overall it’s a much more SHARED vibe.”

PETE: With the new Citrus Sun album being one of many different musical projects you’re now involved in, what are your current and future plans in terms of the others?

BLUEY: “Well, there’s definitely gonna be another solo album coming, where this time I’m intending to do a few tracks with just myself. Because to me that’s what solo albums are ABOUT - an expression of the individual, what’s going on in their mind, something that’s not diluted by anybody else... You know, it’s the real deal, the true story of what’s coming out of your soul - and fortunately with the LAST solo album (2013’s “Leap Of Faith”) having gone so well I do have a public now that want me to do ANOTHER one!... Then with Incognito, in addition to our big 35th Anniversary Show at Shepherds Bush Empire this July I’ve also just completed a new album that’s about to be packaged - you know, same rhythm section, same art team... Plus I’m also helping various members of the group get their OWN solo projects together. Which is a big thing for me, because I genuinely believe that with Incognito I do have a band where there’s nobody that isn’t WORTHY of a solo record. To me it’s like they’re all stars and so my plan is to help them as much as POSSIBLE... Then another thing I’m working on right now is starting my own VIDEO company through which we’ll be making all future Incognito videos; I’m also continuing to work with international artists - I just produced a lady in Russia called Olga, I’ll be producing some Japanese artists again later this year… Oh and then I’m also MDing for Chaka KHAN in the UK this year! Which in turn means Incognito are going to be backing her at Southport as well as some OTHER UK shows… So yeah, lots to DO - which is exactly the way I LIKE it!”

Citrus Sun will perform at Under The Bridge, London on April 17

The album “People Of Tomorrow” is out now through Dome.

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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