Ten years is a long time in any circle. However, ten years in the world of music is something exponentially larger. Add to that the fact that Beats & Pieces Big Band, made up of fourteen musicians no less, have hit the decade milestone, and you start to see why one might want to mark the occasion. The Manchester based ensemble is led by composer/conductor Ben Cottrell and the clue to their success is each player’s distinct musical background and individual voice is key to the collective band identity.
The album featured is the aptly titled Ten. A live album, it boasts an alluring, multifaceted shape on the cover, with triangles and trapezoids interlocking to form something greater. Something that, as you would expect, is a perfect representation of the music you are about to hear.
Before you read on, Beats & Pieces Big Bans are giving a FREE download of “Time”, to Angry Baby readers. If you’re not already subscribed to Angry Baby, just pop the email address that you’d like it delivered to here and it will be on its way to you straight away, together with a bumper collection of music that has been shared by Angry Baby. The music comes from outstanding artists that you may not have heard before. With a mix of rock, pop, folk…you name it…there’s bound to be something new that floats your musical boat, and all for free! What’s not to like about that?!
Opening track ‘Nois‘ brings the fanfared layers of trumpets and sax, yet a driving and rolling rhythm section keeps the pace high, and unrelenting. Over seven minutes for an opening track is bold and adventurous, and at no point are you sure which direction the piece will travel in.
A particular highlight comes in with second track ‘Jazzwalk’. More traditionally and recognisably jazzy, it carries a handful of melodic themes that trade off against one another. Less of a Jazz walk, and more of a Jazz Strut!
A key thing to highlight with Beats & Pieces Big Band, is that, as their website proudly states, they are not so much a big band, but a band that is big (sonically, numerically etc). Traditional Big Band music can often come across as somewhat twee, perfect for musicals, but less geared towards artistic expression. Not here. Each song is sizeable, the shortest, ‘Pop‘, still thrashing out past the five minute mark, with the longest, the sombre ‘Broken‘, coming in at just under ten minutes.
With such lengthy pieces, it’s a joy to note the little nuances that are thrown into the mix (Beats and Pieces one could say!). For a perfect example, about two minutes 45 into ‘Time’, soft jazz battles with pitch shifting synth; it spins your brain round in all the right ways.
Finally, lest we forget, this is a LIVE album! Whilst the band, with an original line up of a decade are, naturally, going to be tight, the levels of musicianship and ability to blend are something to be celebrated. Let’s make things clear. This isn’t a conventional listen, this will challenge you, but that’s kind of the point. Ten as an album is something to enjoy by jumping in fully and embracing. This is an album for fans of musicianship and composition in any sort of level – or if you just have a jazzy side, you will find love in Beats & Pieces Big Band.
We at Angry Baby like to share the love so here is Beats & Pieces Big Band’s advice for those starting out in the music industry:
“Figure out what exactly it is that you want to do (and why) then get on with it – work hard and make it happen. Whatever it is that you want to do will probably change over time (if it doesn’t then be careful you don’t get stuck in a creative rut) but always make sure that whatever you’re doing is still what you want to do, and don’t do things that aren’t. That applies to creative decisions as well as business and career choices. You’re the artist, trust yourself! If you like what you’re making and are invested in it then other people almost certainly will too, but if you don’t then why do you expect others to?“
Ten was released on July 20th. Get your copy here.
Catch Beats & Pieces Big Band ON TOUR in October. Or if you can’t make it, follow them at:
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