- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

As musical reunions go, this one was relatively painless — no old grudges to settle or hurt feelings to smooth over.

But 20 years is a long time, and the original members of Matt Bianco weren’t sure what would happen once they decided to play music together again.

“I had been in touch with [keyboardist] Danny White, and we’d sort of ask each other what we’re up to,” explains vocalist Mark Reilly over the phone from his home in London. “I invited him up to our studio … and he said, ‘Let’s get together and write some songs.’ I didn’t really think it was going to be for Matt Bianco.”

The reunited trio plays Tuesday and Wednesday at the Birchmere in Alexandria.

Matt Bianco, a jazz-pop group with Latin influences, made a splash with its 1984 album “Whose Side Are You On?” and the single “Get Out of Your Lazy Bed.” The group’s name came from a fictitious spy the group created, in part based on a love for secret-agent TV shows and themes.

The third member of the trio, vocalist Basia Trzetrzelewska (who uses only her first name professionally), went on to work with Mr. White and gained success as a solo artist soon afterward, while Mr. Reilly continued to record with others under the name Matt Bianco.

Looking back on the time, Mr. Reilly says that there were probably personal problems between himself and Basia, but that both have done a lot of growing up since.

What made Mr. Reilly finally decide a reunion was worth a shot was that, days after his meeting with Mr. White, Matt Bianco’s original manager called up, asking if he’d thought about doing a reunion.

“Two independent people getting us together was almost too much a coincidence,” Mr. Reilly says.

He says he didn’t want to simply record for the sake of recording. If the songs were there, they would go for it, he says.

“It went very smoothly,” Mr. Reilly says. “It seemed to be quite spontaneous.”

Basia had been away from recording for a few years, but once she regained her confidence, the trio clicked. They would record musical parts on computer and ship bits and pieces back and forth among one another’s homes, allowing Basia to work on parts at her leisure.

Mr. White and Mr. Reilly worked about five days a week on songs before passing them to Basia for her input and lead vocals. It was a difference from the early days, when Basia didn’t really write any songs and was not technically signed to the band’s record label, as she was considered more of a guest vocalist.

The recordings turned into “Matt’s Mood,” the first album from the group in 20 years and a record that sounds rather timeless, as if it could have been released anytime in the past 40 years.

The opening song, “Ordinary Day,” sets a relaxed tone for the album with its gentle samba beat and Basia’s soothing, smooth voice offset by Mr. Reilly’s deep voice. After a month of rehearsals, the trio played a recent warmup date in London before getting ready for the U.S. tour, which began Tuesday.

Not only is it the first time the original lineup has toured America, but it’s also the first time the band has toured as a group. As Mr. Reilly explains it, they broke up just at the height of their success, before being able to tour.

The group is being billed as Matt Bianco featuring Basia, which doesn’t trouble Mr. Reilly, as Basia’s name is a large draw and can help introduce fans of hers to the Matt Bianco sound. Their early work, though it sounds dated in places, is still an inspiration for them, he says.

“When we first started working, we listened to the first album again, and there was a lot we still liked about it,” he says. “Good songs will never sound dated. We sort of retained the same fusions of jazz and R&B; on this record.”

Of course, the question has to come: Will the trio make another record soon, or will fans have to wait years again?

“It’s kind of up in the air,” Mr. Reilly says. “We’ve started working on some new ideas. I think a lot of that rests of the success of the album. I think we’d all love to make another album if this one has any amount of success.”

• • •

If Matt Bianco makes the perfect music to listen to while winding down after a night on the town, then Bloc Party is the band that will tire you out before you get to that point. It’s hard to listen to the song “Banquet” and not begin moving to the driving beat and shouting along to the yelping vocals of singer and guitarist Kele Okereke.

The London group, which manages to blend danceable beats with rock, isn’t hurting for praise, either. Its debut album, “Silent Alarm,” led the All Music Guide to say the band is worthy of filling stadiums in the footsteps of U2 and Coldplay someday.

Luckily for local audiences, the band isn’t quite there yet and instead plays the more intimate Black Cat in the District on Saturday. Hear what people have been talking about, and heed this piece of advice: Be ready to move.

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