Matt Bianco is a UK band that was formed in 1983. They are mainly known for their success in the mid-1980s and their jazz, Latin-flavoured music.
Popular during the mid-1980s in continental Europe, Matt Bianco was part of the new jazz pop genre, that they shared with acts such as Working Week, Sade, Everything but the Girl, and The Style Council. The name suggests that Matt Bianco is a person, often assumed to be an alias for the main constant member and frontman, Mark Reilly, but Matt is in fact "a made up spy, a secret agent; we loved spy TV themes and film scores".
The early years:
Matt Bianco was initially formed in 1982 by Mark Reilly (vocals), Danny White (keyboards), and Kito Poncioni (bass), all of whom had just left art pop group, Blue Rondo A La Turk. Also on board from the beginning was then-unknown Polish vocalist Basia Trzetrzelewska. Initially, the band was known as "Bronze", before settling on the name Matt Bianco in 1983.
The group was pictured as a quartet for their first single ("Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed"/"Big Rosie"), although Poncioni only played on the non-album B-side "Big Rosie". Poncioni then dropped out of the group before the recording of Matt Bianco's first album, 1984's Whose Side Are You On?. For the album, the group was officially a trio of Reilly, White and Trzetrzelewska. Although he does not appear on the album in any capacity, Poncioni did receive a co-writing credit on the track "Half A Minute".
Whose Side Are You On? spawned several UK and European hits, including "Get Out of Your Lazy Bed", "More Than I Can Bear", "Half a Minute" and "Sneaking Out The Back Door". As well, the title track, while not a hit in the UK, was a minor hit in Canada.
Basia and Danny White, who subsequently formed a romantic relationship, left the group soon after the first album to pursue a very successful international solo career for Basia with Sony on the Epic label.
Reilly found two new musical partners: Jenny Evans became the new female singer for Matt Bianco, contributing mainly backing vocals, and lead vocals on two album tracks, and ex-Wham and Second Image keyboarder and session musician Mark Fisher became White's successor as songwriter and producer, and the band's keyboard player. This line-up recorded the (self-titled) Matt Bianco album, which was released in 1986 and contained the hit "Yeh Yeh".
The Reilly-Fisher duo years:
With the addition of Mark Fisher, the sound changed considerably. Fisher, a keyboardist, composer and studio wizard, contributed a more contemporary sound, compared to that of the early Matt Bianco. The use of synthesizers increased notably: Yamaha's DX-7 can be heard providing the slap bass in most songs, but the choice of noted studio musicians remained consistent with Ronnie Ross being the most prominent example. After the first album with the new line-up, they took a 13-piece band on to a European tour, that saw them perform in front of an audience of more than 250,000 attendees in total.
In 1984 they appeared on the BBC TV morning show Saturday Superstore and were infamously subjected to a brief torrent of four-lettered abuse during a fan 'phone-in', which could not be cut as the show was live.
Jenny Evans left the group shortly after the recording of the group's self-titled album and was not replaced.
Matt Bianco was now a household name in Europe, and Warner Brothers sought to market them in the United States. They hired Gloria Estefan's husband and producer Emilio Estefan to produce a few songs, and recorded their third album, Indigo, with the Estefan productions being chosen as singles. 1988's "Don't Blame it on That Girl" and "Good Times" only made a moderate impact. "Wap-Bam-Boogie", an album track originally on the B-side of the first single, which did well on the dance charts, and pushed the joint single release up to Number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, making it Matt Bianco's most successful single.
Their first Greatest Hits album, entitled The Best of Matt Bianco, collecting their greatest hits from 1983 to 1990, was released in 1990. Another studio album was released in 1991 by Warner Brothers, the fractured Samba in Your Casa, the fourth long-playing by the group.
Reilly and Fisher then split from their record company and went freelance. From then on, they recorded their albums in their own studios, and then offered them to independent distributors worldwide.
They scored contracts with ZYX Music and Intercord in Europe, and Victor Entertainment in Asia, but failed to sign on with another major label. The next albums did not sell well in Europe, but they created a loyal fan base in Japan and the rest of Asia. The albums Another Time Another Place, Gran Via, World Go Round, A/Collection (not a greatest hits album, but more of a compilation album, compiling a number of remakes of Matt Bianco's stand-out album tracks plus remixes of a few of their hits), Rico, and Echoes sold well enough for a comfortable lifestyle in the South-East of England.
After twenty years recording and touring, the two split amicably.
The reunion of the original trio line-up:
Initiated by a mutual friend, Basia and Danny White joined with Mark Reilly to reform the "original" Matt Bianco, in 2003, signing to the Emarcy label. (Original bassist Kito Poncioni, who only played on one Matt Bianco track before leaving the band in 1984, had died in the late 1990s)
In 2004, Matt Bianco released the album Matt's Mood (the name is from one of their most popular early instrumental tracks). The album featured adult-contemporary/jazz numbers, in the spirit of their first album. The following year, they embarked on a world tour, which included stops in the UK, Japan, and the United States.
The present: back again to the duo:
After the success of Matt's Mood, Basia and White left Matt Bianco again to reinvigorate the Basia brand. Reilly reunited with Fisher, and Matt Bianco were back as a duo. Three compilation albums were marketed between 2005 and 2008, including The Best of Matt Bianco - Volume 2, containing many of the Asian tracks, which were so far only available in Germany for European fans, and the re-release of the original 1990 The Best of Matt Bianco, featuring their European hits from 1983 to 1990. In May 2009 Fisher and Reilly released their first album as a duo for eight years in Europe, the UK and Japan. With HiFi Bossanova the band secured a recording contract with Edel Music in Europe and continued their cooperation with JVC-Victor in Japan which in November 2012 bore fruit again with the release of their latest album Hideaway.