In these straightened times, We tend to steer clear of big bands and the financial challenges that go with them, but this was just too good to resist. At 25, Beats & Pieces’ composer/MD Ben Cottrell has built something remarkable in England’s northern heartland. Beats & Pieces is a fourteen-piece juggernaut that swaggers old school when it wants to, but also reveals a contemporary urban edge, with Radiohead medleys and electronica in amongst the brass and reeds. With composers like Colin Towns and orchestras like Loose Tubes, the Brits were always good at this, and Beats & Pieces are writing the next chapter in the story of the UK big band. Manchester’s colliery bands might be gone, but the playing traditions are hard to kill off, and if jazz small groups have been repurposed and upcycled in the new century, then why not the big band? Ben Cottrell shows us where it can go.