Mark Reilly will be bringing The Essential Matt Bianco to Palma this weekend. | Mariagrazia Giove


This Sunday evening the 16th edition of the Jazz Voyeur Festival opens in Palma and the legendary British Latin jazz/funk band Matt Bianco will be swinging the festival open.

Founding member of the band, Mark Reilly, told the Bulletin this week that he is really looking forward to bringing the group to perform in Mallorca, an island he has visited many times over the years.

Matt Bianco, named after a made-up spy, a secret agent, because the band members loved spy TV themes and film scores, blasted onto the British and global music scene in the mid-’80s, which was no mean feat.

Mark agrees that the ‘80s was one of, if not the best, decades or generations for music in the UK with such a varied selection of music being produced. But until Matt Bianco hit the scene, there was no mainstream Latin jazz.

The guitarist and singer-songwriter born in High Wycombe first became a member of the band Blue Rondo a la Turk. Following their break-up he became a founder member of the group Matt Bianco in 1982.

“We had two Brazilian musicians in my previous band, so I was introduced to Latin sounds by them. But I had always loved to dance in the clubs and so with Matt Bianco we decided we wanted to do something new and exciting. At home I grew up against the backdrop of vocal jazz and blues, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and then got into more black soul in the late ‘70s. And yes, the ‘80s were an exciting time. I guess we were rather vintage but then we started to experiment with synthesisers and integrated percussion, I guess we were at the forefront of what is know considered fusion music.

"We were playing with Bossa Nova, Latin funk, Spanish sounds and were also influenced by the New York scene, so yeah, we were different to anything else that was out there when we started out,” Mark said.
And who doesn’t remember their first international hit Get Out of Your Lazy Bed?

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Needless to say the band had its ups and down, members coming and going, but that’s how the industry rolls. Nevertheless, it was not long before Matt Bianco were recording a new album, Indigo, in Miami with Gloria Estefan’s husband and producer Emilio Estefan.

“That was a great experience. We were there just as all of the classic retro buildings, clubs and restaurants were being protected plus the music scene was so eclectic and vibrant. We’ve worked with some great musicians. That’s been one of the great things about this job, I’ve recorded and worked in Brazil, Cuba, Seville, for example, and we’ve performed at jazz festivals all over the world. And whilst we’ve noticed that jazz has become so more experimental and open, it doesn’t have to be mainstream. It’s about musicianship and enjoying it and we still do.

“That said, Brexit knocked the UK music industry for six and I think those who have survived are only just getting back on track.

“Never mind the travel restrictions on bands touring Europe, that’s been dealt with to a certain extent, it was the sound engineers, the roadies, even promoters who were hardest hit. Quite a few of the latter went to the wall, so Brexit has not helped the industry. There was no financial support for the industry, no one to fall back on, so I was grateful to have able to carry on and focus on something.

“But there are other ways of getting your music out there now via streaming etc.. Fortunately I’m pretty self sufficient and don’t need to rely on all that.

“Plus for me and the band, it’s about touring and playing live. We still get the biggest kick out of that, so we can’t wait to get out to Mallorca. We’ve got a few other bits and bobs on the table for this year, I have another album planned, but we’re renovating a new house and my wife has told me I have to get the painting and decorating done, all the DIY, before I can embark on the new album,” he said.

Mark made the most of lockdown. “In a way I kind of enjoyed it and a new album emerged from it. Live shows were cancelled and getting the band together was out of the question, so I decided on a new career concept. I started to examine my song progress over the years and looked at recording and producing some of the songs in a new and different way.

“It gave me something to focus on, something to work on and I was grateful that it kept me busy, and the result was the 2CD The Essential Matt Bianco. Re-imagined, Re-loved.
“It featured new Latin-flavoured 2022 versions of 15 Matt Bianco classics - preceded by the singles More Than I Can Bear 2022 , Matt’s Mood 2022 and Wap Bam Boogie 2022 - plus 15 re-mixes and special versions.

“And that is what we’re going to be performing in Mallorca - some of our classic hits from over the years and some of our new tracks, it’s going to be a fun, swinging night full of jazz fusion,” Mark said.
“It’s going to be The Essential Matt Bianco.”
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Quick fire round
What’s your favourite mean or dish?
What’s was your childhood career dream?
To be a footballer.
What’ s the first ling you do when you get up in the morning?
Have a coffee.
If you didn’t live near London, where would you live?
Bit of a tough one right now, just about to move into a new house we’ve been renovating, so my mind is on that right now.
What was the last film you watched and your favourite?
Last film was a 1964 black and white war film starring Burt Lancaster. Enjoyed that but my favourite film has to be Raging Bull .
What was the best career advice you ever received?
Quite a few, but I guess it’s do something you’re passionate about, don’t try and emulate anyone else, use your integrity.
What are you afraid of, if anything?
I guess the safety of my family.
What’s your favourite music?
What’s your favourite drink/cocktail?
A bloody Mary.