The Ben Cox Band – This Waiting Game
(Cinnamon Records. CD Review by Jeanie Barton)
Ben Cox’s lyrical, playful yet somehow sorrowful voice and compositions first put me in mind of a jazz inspired, soulful Gilbert O’Sullivan with the opening track This Waiting Game. His delicate counter tenor and falsetto range could perhaps also draw comparisons to James Blunt but he has an unexpected arsenal of chromatic and harmonic dexterity as well as carefully reserved strength. It’s hard to believe this musicality and individuality is emerging from someone who is only 21 years old and not yet graduated from London’s Guildhall School of Music.
His band; directed by Jamie Safiruddin on piano and keyboards, are chilled and smooth. The modal shifts they regularly employ give the album (produced and co-arranged by Ian Shaw) a modern, fresh feel, peppered with rock/funk edged grooves, notably on When Ends Appear and during a re-harmonisation of And I Love Her by Lennon and McCartney. Ben Cox’s voice is layered up both in unison, octaves and harmonies to create a wall of sound, Adam Chatterton not only contributes trumpet and flugelhorn of exemplary jazz character but also adds backing vocals. Most tracks bring all these sophisticated elements together making the ensemble sound much bigger than the five participants. During Sea the guitar and backing vocals of Kirk McElhinney are also added to the mix which fattens the sound further, while the driving Hammond line urges the swell to a crashing crescendo.
The ensemble showcase their spacious and delicate, classical jazz abilities in A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, a duet shared with Claire Martin wherein Flo Moore’s moreish double bass steals some limelight. Slow Dance has a similar soft, brushed retro vibe and is one of my favourites, it is an angular yet catchy tune that coils up and then unfurls almost seamlessly, Ben Cox’s voice and Adam Chatterton’s horn share the melody and the piano opens out at the close with a glorious flurry of theatricality, embellished by Will Glaser’s cymbals.
The band’s Latin virtuosity is brought to the fore in the syncopated Either Or as well as an effervescent This Happy Madness with Emily Dankworth (by Antonio Carlos Jobim & Vinícius De Moraes) wherein both she and Ben Cox start colla voce in alluring Portuguese and then vocally percuss a vivacious tempo to continue with the with English lyrics by Gene Lees. Another curious number is a poignant waltz called George, a song written by Jamie Safiruddin about George Michael. This and a number of other songs employ subtle electronic affects that are quite hypnotic juxtaposed over the more organic sounding compositions.
Just when you think they have employed every string on their bows, track 10, Country Song, shifts the album sideways; Cox takes to the keyboard and Safiruddin picks up the rhythm guitar to passionately strum an Irish enthused ditty with a song line that in my opinion shows Ben Cox’s voice off best. I wonder if he has Irish heritage as the style so suits him – he could easily make an album of similar material and most likely become a household name very quickly.