Album review

Beats & Pieces Big Band – ‘Good Days’  

Beats & pieces Big Band – Good Days  
(Efpi Records. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Beats & Pieces may call themselves a big band rather than a jazz orchestra, but their music draws on the sounds and textures of ensembles led by Gil Evans, Carla Bley and Maria Schneider rather than the big bands of the 1930s and 1940s. They also add a strong infusion of music influenced by contemporary artists or bands such as Björk and Radiohead.

This latest album, their third studio recording, nonetheless presents a nicely varied set with traditional big band values mixed in with the more dominant contemporary influences. The latter come out strongly on the track op, which begins and ends with punchy brass lines to create an atmosphere that Richard Jones‘ piano solo builds on before the brass re-enters. The sound mix created by engineer Tullis Rennie adds greatly to the atmosphere of this track.

Two tracks create a gentler atmosphere again enhanced by Rennie’s sound mix: elegy has a haunting melody played and developed by Oliver Dover on the alto saxophone; and cminriff has an attractive reflective melody developed by Anthony Brown on tenor saxophone.

(blues for) linu and woody are tracks that develop more of a big band roast with trumpeter Graham South and drummer Finlay Panter soloing on the former. woody springs a surprise as it goes from the up tempo brassy ensemble playing into a conclusion of distant church bells. This is one of three tracks that feature field recordings made by Beats & Pieces’ director Ben Cottrell while he was based in Switzerland. The short db track begins and ends with train sounds from Berlin Haupbahnhof with a blast from the band in between; wait – the opening track – begins with birdsong creating an ambient atmosphere built on by Richard Jones on Rhodes piano.

The album was recorded in January 2020 just before lockdown. The music for this was apparently developed much more organically and collectively than on previous recordings. This way of working gives the music a strong and definite feeling of spontaneity, and provides a very enjoyable and fun listen.

This spontaneity should be very much to the fore when Beats & Pieces launch the album on a short UK tour:

Fri 3 Feb  – Crookes Social Club, Sheffield 
Mon 6 Feb – Ronnie Scott’s, London
Tues 7 Feb – Ronnie Scott’s, London
Weds 8 Feb – Symphony Hall, Birmingham 
Thurs 9 Feb – Band on the Wall, Manchester 

Good Days is released on 27 January

LINK: Good Days at Bandcamp

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