Review: Beats & Pieces Big Band

Beats & Pieces Big Band with Tony Platt (fourth from right)
Livingston Sudios, November 2011 at the recording sessions for
Big Ideas

Beats & Pieces Big Band
(Ronnie Scott’s, 20th February 2012. Review by Frank Griffith)

Beats & Pieces Big Band, a newish group drawn from Manchester’s finest, made an impressive showing at a packed out Ronnie Scotts on 20th February. To describe Beats n Pieces as an out and out jazz big band would be missing the mark a bit, since their playing and repertoire borrow from many other genres other than conventional big band jazz.

Leader and conductor, Ben Cottrell, writes most of the material, which included a medley of two Radiohead songs that fit well into the whole scheme of things. Also notable on the programme was saxist Ben Watts’ piece “Sisterhood” which closed the (all too brief) forty-five minute set.

It must be emphasised that the band is tops in terms of cohesive blend, pitching and negotiating the many tricky technical passages presented to them. A first rate ensemble indeed- especially the separate horn sections’ (3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes) ability to find their way through the angular and notey unison lines.

Cottrell’s music tends to be layered rather than concerted, which is to say sections collectively playing contrasting motifs as opposed to the same theme together in harmony. There were occasionaly shades of a Don Ellis influence with the odd metered time signatures and engagingly erratic melodic twists.

This is music for the 21st century for sure, with its internet-like attention span, surfing through a plethora of different grooves, moods and tempos, all of which are squeezed into relatively short (5-6 minute) pieces.

An apt name for the band, although the emphasis on the Pieces could benefit by swerving towards sustaining and exploiting the Beat a bit more. Be sure to access their debut CD “Big Ideas” as well as the remainder of their Spring tour including dates throughout the UK.

Next tour datess:

24th March – The Sage, Gateshead (Gateshead International Jazz Festival)
28th March – Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple

Beats & Pieces Big Band is supported by Serious and the Arts Council England. They are also grateful to the Musician’s Benevolent Fund.


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