With high profile national and international awards to their name (Ensemble of the Year at UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2014, Best UK Newcomer at the 2013 Jazz FM Awards & European Young Artists’ Jazz Award at 2011 Burghausen International Jazz Festival, Germany) and consistent audience and critical acclaim for their performances across the UK and Europe, the Beats & Pieces Big Band have quickly established themselves as one of the country’s foremost young jazz groups. Led by composer and conductor Ben Cottrell, their music draws on a wide range of influences from Ellington to Loose Tubes to Radiohead to redefine the role of the big band for a new generation.
Since their very first gig at the Manchester Jazz Festival in 2008, the band has performed across the UK to consistent audience and critical acclaim. In March 2011, Beats & Pieces were named as the winners of the European Young Artists’ Jazz Award, part of the Burghausen International Jazz Festival in Germany and one of the continent’s largest awards for emerging jazz musicians. Winning the competition ahead of 4 other finalists from across Europe led to a gala concert supporting Chick Corea and Gary Burton, which was broadcast on German TV and radio. The band have since performed internationally for radio station TSF Jazz in France, at the 12 Points! Festival in Dublin, and showcased at the Jazzahead conference in Bremen, Germany (generously supported by the PRS for Music Foundation’s British Music Abroad scheme).
In 2012 Beats & Pieces were awarded a prestigious Emerging Excellence Award by the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund to enable them to undertake a residency period at Dartington Hall in Devon, rehearsing and workshopping material for their next album recording due to take place in 2013. Bandleader Ben Cottrell was also the only musician to be awarded funding by Arts Council England and the British Council’s joint Artists’ International Development Fund in July 2012. This funding has allowed Beats & Pieces musicians to work closely with the Norwegian big band Ensemble Denada, led by composer Helge Sunde, ahead of a collaborative project which debuted at the London Jazz Festival in November 2012, and was repeated at the Oslo Jazz Festival in August 2013 as part of Fiona Talkington’s Conexions series of events.
The band’s debut album ‘Big Ideas‘ was released in March 2012 on Efpi Records, an independent label co-founded by three of the original band members which has since grown into an umbrella organisation representing a growing roster of emerging musicians based across the UK and Scandinavia. This album release followed a (now-deleted) EP in December 2009 and a limited edition DVD of a live performance at Manchester’s legendary Band on the Wall venue in October 2011, both on Efpi. The ‘Big Ideas’ release was marked with a major UK tour produced by Serious, with the Manchester show at the RNCM recorded by the BBC for broadcast on Jazz on 3, and the London gig at a sold-out Ronnie Scott’s receiving glowing 5 star reviews in both The Guardian and The Telegraph.
“Few bands play work of this complexity with such passionate conviction. Movers and shakers such as [Colin] Towns, Matthew Herbert, Darcy James Argue and [Ben] Cottrell demonstrate that large ensembles remain a vital force in contemporary jazz.” John L Walters, The Guardian
“Beats & Pieces dazzled with a glorious, full-bloodied set demonstrating all that’s good about big band jazz. The big band tradition is alive and well and living in Manchester.” Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise
“What really marked this gig as something special was its sheer generosity. The ideas and moods came thick and fast, each one so brilliantly vivid that you wanted it to go on, even while enjoying the leap to something new. This band’s achievement is already astonishing, but they’ll surely go further.” Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph
“They couple gale-force collective energy and confidence to startlingly original material (most of it by its rising-star leader Ben Cottrell) that acknowledges big-band traditions while radically modernising them.” John Fordham, The Guardian
“Their performance would have reassured anyone who wonders whether the big band tradition can connect with a twentysomething audience that knows its Radiohead but thinks that Stan Kenton is probably a window-cleaner in Coronation Street” Clive Davis, The Times
“If ever there was a big band that sounded perfect for the 21st century young person, Beats & Pieces is it” Peter Bacon, thejazzbreakfast