Some things just get better with time. Red wine and self-confidence, for example, or Matt Bianco. The group, who were named after an imaginary Sixties super-spy in the 1980’s, is adored around the world for hits such as ‘Half A Minute’, ‘Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed’, ‘Whose Side Are You On?’ and ‘Yeh Yeh’. For their brand new album, ‘Gravity’, vocalist and songwriter Mark Reilly recruited a superb new band featuring Swedish sax and flute star Magnus Lindgren and a large chunk of Jamie Cullum’s group. Their mission : reviving and modernising Matt Bianco’s Bossa and Jazz roots while maintaining the easy-going swing of former successes, built around the singularly recognisable Dry Martini-voice of Reilly. The result is a simultaneously energetic yet relaxed collection of ten original songs with enough gravity to please their most ardent admirers and win over plenty of new fans.
Reilly, who founded the band in 1983 with two fellow members of the group Blue Rondo à la Turk, recalls: “When we first started we were into a lot of spy movies from the 60’s. The main reason was that they often had a lot of very cool Latin and Jazz music in the soundtracks. We made our own character to fit into that – Matt Bianco.”
Recorded in Stockholm, London and in Reilly’s own studio in Buckinghamshire, ‘Gravity’ draws on an organic jazz combo sound recorded as a live band and mixed by Reilly. “We got criticised by mainstream jazz people back in the day because Matt Bianco isn’t like straight ahead jazz. It was an influence on us, but we were not trying to make mainstream jazz. Mixing jazz and the retro feel to the music interested a lot of people. I think we created a fusion this time around that I hope will appeal not just to existing fans but a younger generation as well.”
‘Gravity’ is the group’s first release since the tragic death of co-leader and keyboard player Mark Fisher, who joined prior to their second album in 1986 and subsequently helped overhaul the veteran band’s sound. The sessions began in Stockholm, where Reilly started co-writing the feel-good summer tune (and first single) ‘Joyride’, a driving anthem somewhere between Lee Morgan’s ’Sidewinder’ and War’s ‘Lowrider’, plus the deep, dark, kind of blue ballad ‘Solace’ and the smooth-like-molasses favourite ‘AM/PM’ with Lindgren.
The other seven new songs, which range from up-tempo groovers like ’Summer In The City’ and ‘Invisible’ to the slightly Latin-ised ‘Paradise’, were written and recorded with sax player Dave O’Higgins (Jamie Cullum, Mezzoforte, Matthew Herbert) in his Brixton studio and recorded with members of his quintet : Sebastiaan de Krom on drums and Geoff Gascoyne on bass, both of whom have played extensively with Jamie Cullum; Graham Harvey on piano and Fender Rhodes, known for his work with George Benson, Incognito and Stacey Kent; and Martin Shaw on trumpet and flugelhorn, a frequent member of the BBC Big Band, who has also played with Sting, Jamiroquai and Natalie Cole. Completing the line-up is Elisabeth Troy, chart-hitting vocalist in her own right as well as with MJ Cole, Metrik and Clean Bandit.
Reilly is excited about Matt Bianco touring ‘Gravity’ with the same musicians who appear on it. Dates commence in Japan in late August before the group hit mainland Europe in mid-September and the rest of the world in 2018. “It’s more of an adult thing now,” he reflects. “The Matt Bianco of 1984 was promoted in a pop world. It was the beginning of the video age and we were kind of marketed that way. It’s now 30 years later and although the music to me has not changed a great deal, we are on much more of an adult level. I think the music we make now is more mature. It suits our age group and us and we feel comfortable with it.” The chances are that listeners will feel comfortable with the all new Matt Bianco too – a classy, cool and sophisticated sound for now and beyond.
‘Joyride’ is available via these music services :
Album co-written by Mark Reilly with Magnus Lindgren and Dave O’Higgins
recorded live in the studio and featuring an all-star jazz band
Mark Reilly – vocals
Magnus Lindgren – saxophone, flute
Dave O’Higgins – saxophone [Jamie Cullum, Mezzoforte, Matthew Herbert] Sebastiaan de Krom – drums [Jamie Cullum] Geoff Gascoyne – bass [Jamie Cullum]