Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove is a legend not just on the UK Latin scene as a DJ and conguero, but also a session musician (Lisa Stansfield and others) and an excellent DJ on the Funk and Northern circuit. Most of all he is not just a legend, but after 30 years on various scenes he is still an active participant, who is contributing with his own productions, with compilations and with good documentational writing (check FROM JAZZ FUNK & FUSION TO ACID JAZZ: THE HISTORY OF THE UK JAZZ DANCE SCENE). If you do not know his earlier releases, check them out. If you are looking at New York Afternoon because Latin Jazz is your thing then you must give his releases on Ubiquity/CubopIt a try.
It would be harsh to say that New York Afternoon left me cold. But honestly, it did not get much beyond lukewarm. For me it’s too much middle-of-the-road in sound, arrangement and delivery, though there is a lot of talent and some really great moments. Unfortunately, the opener is not one of them in my opinion: Vocalist Marc Evans might be best known from the 2005 Club hit The Way You Love Me by Ron Hall & The MuthaFunkaz. In all its good versions (Tom Moulton and Dimitri From Paris remixed it) that track lived from having an enormous groove an top of which Marc was able to shout and belt it out during the chorus and ad libs, though his verses were delivered in a rather smooth style. Mark (Cotgrove) says he found him singing a Jon Lucien tribute and must have thought he could deliver a smooth performance on top of the modern jazz (dance) standard he picked as the title track. It doesn’t work for me. For smooth delivery try Rare Silk or Yasuko Agawa (whose 1982 recording also exist in a Latin Jazz remix by Quasimode from 2007). For the ultimate combination of style, personality and “bite” look no further than the original Newe York Afternoon by Richie Cole & Eddie Jefferson.
The next number, Tres Tambores, makes up for the weak album opener. It’s seven minutes of proper Latin Jazz written by drummer Davide Giovannini who has collaborated with Snowboy for 20+ years on his own releases and other assorted UK projects (Lisa Stansfield, Down To The Bone, Da Lata).
Better (3) is a solid vocal number featuring Jen Kearney, great horns (including solos), percussion and all round enjoyable though my ears still have to adjust to English-language Salsa vocals.
Echalo Ya (4) develops from a middling Spanish-language Latin track into a great jazzy affair towards the end, but I thought we’re in for a long descarga session with organ, strong horns, chorus, ad lib and solo vocals when, for my taste, the track comes to an “early” end after six and a half minutes…. I could have done with more!
Cala Escarpardo (5) is an Organ (B3) solo work out, leading to a very good instrumental track entitled OléMambo (6) which is a very good latin jazz number with a lot of punch thanks to good solos from the blazing horn section, the keyboarder and the leader himself. Worth checking out.
La Época Del Palladium (7) celebrates the golden years of Pacheco but is no match to its subject though the second half jam is decent.
Oxen Free (8) sounds like a salsa attempt at Stevie Wonder in chord progression and vocal delivery by little known Jen Kearney. It’s pleasant but nothing makes this particularly noteworthy, though, yet again, beyond the five minute mark the track gets jazzy which raises the quality a notch.
If the title of the last track, The Triple Bluff (9), makes you think of a 70s cop flick you are actually not far from the sentiments conveyed here. It’s a fantastic closer to the album and owes a lot to 70s Blaxploitation and library recordings while remaining a Latin Jazz track throughout. Mark is laying a solid foundation together with the other drummers / percussionist and bass player Nico Gomez (not the one of Ritual fame…) on top of which especially Neil Angilley’s gets a great opportunity to shine with Hammond and Fender Rhodes before the horns join after more than seven minutes. This is THE standout track for me and at nine and half a minutes of good length. I would have been happy to get a whole album of this kind of stuff.