Thanks to the vision of Roberta Cutolo and Elita’s Dino Lupelli - both former collaborators of Bari’s based Nu-Jazz guru, Nicola Conte - Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove and his publisher, Paul Bradshaw of Straight No Chaser, touched down in Milan to do the first official launch event for From Jazz Funk & Fusion to Acid Jazz: The History Of The UK Jazz Dance Scene.
Elita is the Design Week’s music festival and its invited guests included DJ appearances from Hot Chip, Shinichi Osawa, Alex from Tokyo, J Majik and Dubfire alongside live sets from Imelda May, Trio Valore and Rosalia De Souza. Guest speakers at various events and forums included ’s Brian Fichtner and Chicago based deep house producer/dj Tim Baker. Snowboy was in good company.
The Elita HQ on viale Montenero was buzzing when we arrived and there was an air of anticipation around the showing of Berlin Calling, a turbulent tale that focussed on the drug fuelled demise of one DJ Ikarus - geddit? After being immersed in that dark little episode, Snowboy, was happy to illuminate an altogether more positive twist on the evolution of contemporary club culture.
The combination of deep knowledge and enthusiasm he projects is a result of ten years research plus his own experiences as a DJ, conguero, band leader, recording artist, record collector and journalist but on this day it was his collection of short films that fired up the imagination of his audience. Footage of the Electric Ballroom’s IDJ dancers in Julian Temple’s Venceremos video gave us a glimpse into what was truly unique about this scene. The Brothers In Jazz’s more baletic and acrobatic mambo style was nicely portrayed in an arty Mura Dehn inspired film for Parco in Tokyo. A film of Snowboy’s own Jazzateria sessions highlighted the talents of Rocky Bryan, who to the delight of all present took the floor at the Elita HQ… live and direct… and showed us all how it could be done.
The Straight No Chaser DJ set that followed wound on into the evening and allowed the Italian soul and funk fraternity, some of had travelled to Milan for the session, to grab a few words with Mark about the book, the music and dance styles that he is so passionate about.
Following the Elita HQ forum we headed off to do what we thought was to be a small sedate, cool DJ set at a museum opening. However, on the way there, Dino explained this was a SERIOUS session. The expression on his face said it all. This opening for Fabio Novembre installation ' Fiore di Novembre ' at La Triennale ( www.triennale.it ) was to be one of the highlights of the Milan Design Week and was guaranteed to attract over a thousand guests including a host of major league iconic artists and designers.
The DJ set was to be short… one hour… and provide a warm up for a modest live set. Notions of a quiet gradual build up to the set vanished as a horde of guests swarmed through nave of the huge gallery. A pumping Joaquin Claussell / Spiritual Life ‘Live Field Recording’ of Salif Keita provided more than adequate accompaniment to this spectacle. Snowboy followed the Chaser selekshaan with a marvellous Inner Sense batucada which bounced of the walls of this cavernous space beautifully. Tribute was paid to Tokyo’s UFO and in typically reckless Chaser fashion Milan’s cultural cognescnti were confronted with the powerfully charged, rebellious sounds of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. As we know Fela doesn’t do short tunes… and this cut of JDD, recorded Live at The Shrine in Lagos, was LONG! However, the Milanese and their international guests didn’t seem to mind. It simply paved the way for more of the unexpected.
Fabio Novembre, is a celebrated designer, a young dude from Salento, in the South of Italy . His artworks are spiritually charged, witty and ambitious. Without formality he stepped up onstage, and smiling, requested a mic from Snowboy. When he spoke, a sense of anticipation rippled through the building. He enthusiastically introduced his musician friends onto the stage. The electric piano kicked in along with rolling bass lines and he welcomed onstage Jovanotti. Sporting a straw fedora and a goatee, this man was instrumental introducing hip hop into the Italian mainstream, and as he vocalised one his big hits the museum was buzzing.
Pure Italian raggamuffin bizniz arrived with the Sud Sound System crew. While they got busy on the mic, Jovanotti, stepped over to Snowboy and asked him if he could use the tune he’d line up on the technics. Unaware of what was to happen next, Snowboy had to look an in horror as, the man commenced cutting out beats for the MCs from his rare, £300.00, Willis Jackson LP. It was definitely a crazy moment. Once Snowboy snapped out his initial shock he quietly informed the turntablist of it’s value and without even interrupting the flow, replaced it with a less precious 12”. Within seconds Jovanotti was back on it, cutting and scratching out a ridim that allowed the MCs to wax lyrical about the pleasures of the good Herb! The tiny stage was packed with bodies arms in the air, jumping up (gwaan Rocky!) and as it drew to a close we were treated to a stage invasion of supa stylish women on stilettos who simply swept the security aside. Totally wild.
The night wound down to a four to the floor house set and we managed to spend a little time taking in the man’s excellent exhibition, before heading off into the night amid the clamour hundreds of people still hanging and chatting in the shadow of a Milanese institution that was akin to the V&A in London. That was it, a very entertaining and eventful addition to Snowboy’s very first European book launch. Nice.