Ben Cottrell is a composer and saxophonist based in Manchester. He is best known as the musical director of the Beats & Pieces Big Band, which he founded in 2008 as a vehicle for his own compositions and arrangements. Since then the band has received consistent audience and critical acclaim, establishing a reputation as one of the country’s most exciting emerging jazz groups. In March 2011, Beats & Pieces won the European Young Artists’ Jazz Award in Burghausen, Germany – one of the continent’s major jazz prizes for emerging musicians. Following two EPs released on Efpi Records, an independent record label co-founded and managed by Ben and two other band members, the band released their debut album ‘Big Ideas’ in March 2012, also on the Efpi label and distributed by Proper Note.
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 5/08/11
In 2010, Ben was selected to participate in the seventh edition of the prestigious ‘Take Five’ professional development scheme, aimed at ‘the UK’s most talented emerging creative jazz musicians’. He has recently joined the composers represented by Serious’ music publishing arm, In All Seriousness Music Ltd, and was proud to be nominated for the 2011 Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Composers, one of the UK’s foremost arts awards. Ben is also an in-demand arranger and musical director, notably working with Mercury Prize nominated Everything Everything on their 2010 Man Alive Ensemble project with a 15 piece orchestra, and recently arranging music by N-Dubz star Fazer for his performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Urban Classic outdoor concert in London.
Everything Everything’s music has a nervous, jumpy mood, but the orchestra bestowed it with moments of flowing transcendence. Stabs of brass took the place of the electronics on the album, giving a warmth that wasn’t there before
The Times 17/12/10
Ben studied on the Joint Course between the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music, where his principal study was contemporary classical saxophone. He received numerous prizes and awards for performance during his time at the RNCM, including a Highly Commended recital exploring music for saxophones and live electronics during the college’s Gold Medal Weekend (its highest platform for solo performance). Alongside his work with Beats & Pieces, Ben remains an active performer with groups including free improvisation group The Noise Upstairs, and chamber jazz ensemble the 265 Quartet, in which he plays clarinet. He is also an adventurous solo performer, currently developing a set of music for solo saxophones and live processing, regularly appearing at contemporary music festivals across the UK. He is tutor of saxophone at the University of Manchester and Hope University in Liverpool.
Ben is also an experienced sound engineer, having worked FOH sound for international artists such as The Impossible Gentlemen, Marius Neset Golden Xplosion and Led Bib, and recorded everything from guitar bands to symphony orchestras including working on Corinne Bailey Rae’s Mercury Prize nominated album The Sea. He is in-house producer and engineer for Efpi Records – producing, recording, mixing and/or mastering the majority of the label’s releases. With producer David Coyle, Ben has recently established the production duo coco, with recent projects including further collaboration with Everything Everything and Corinne Bailey Rae and upcoming work with several emerging Manchester bands.