Ben Cottrell premieres New Seeing at MJF – a visionary fusion of strings and jazz

Music is a resilient force in times of adversity, having a habit of kicking against the trend of contraction, opening things up to offer an alternative perspective. It's apt then that Beats & Pieces bandleader and composer Ben Cottrell premiered New Seeing, an expansive and exciting commission as the centrepiece of this year's Manchester Jazz Festival at the Royal Northern College of Music. Joined by 12 string players, arranged in an elegant semi-circle behind the core six-piece band, notably featuring two drummers, Finlay Panter and Johnny Hunter, and two bass players, Mick Bardon and Stewart Wilson plus featured trumpeter Graham South and pianist Richard Jones, with additional electronics from Tullis Rennie, and Cottrell himself energetically conducting up front –- this was certainly not your average jazz ensemble.

Ben-Cottrell-New-Seeing-1

It's perhaps a little known fact that Cottrell contributed to the orchestral arrangement on the piece 'Gretel' on Snarky Puppy's Grammy winning album Sylva with the Metropole Orchestra, and it's this association that readily springs to mind here as his adventurous use of textures from the strings and the piercing lead voice of South's trumpet and flugelhorn combine to create a thrusting cinematic sound, which is in marked contrast to the seriously alt.rock vibes he conjures with the brass-led Beats & Pieces. The strings also allow varicoloured layers and pulsating polyrhythms to bubble up in pleasingly unexpected ways, punctuating or expanding the end of melodic lines or creating vast harmonic fields of sound, far wider than any keyboard can stretch.

There was fun to be had too, with a delicately thunderous bass duel kicking off an extended section of the work, both players snapping and sliding around their cumbersome instruments and ending on some delicately plucked harmonics, before leaping into a unison bass line that muscled its way to the heart of the next piece in a stereo bass stomp. Just as the music once more expanded, it then collapsed into a similarly playful drum dialogue between Panter and Hunter, which was to Cottrell's credit to allow improvisational space between the starry symphonic flights. With the doubled-up bass boogie leading off the coda, now joined by three furiously plucked cellos and the rest of the strings sawing mightily to the finish, Cottrell once again showed his mettle as a writer of both experience and depth, happy to grab a little of Snarky Puppy's prog fusion power for maximum sonic impact.

Ben-Cottrell-New-Seeing-6

A far more reflective piece, 'I Feel A Lot Better Now', inspired by a poignant note of forgiveness Cottrell read in a German church that was bombed in WW2, created a pastoral calm via a softly shimmering bed of strings, Jones' piano sparkling dexterously on top, like dappled sunlight on those sleeping tombstones Cottrell passed by; the mood evoked further by the sound of church bells played backwards and then fading at the end. It's vital to remember that the reality of creating hugely ambitious works like this takes time, and indeed money, to bring to fruition free from commercial pressure – that said, this never-before-heard piece attracted a near full house. So it's to the MJF's credit that they can provide opportunities to talents as prolific and impressive as Ben Cottrell's to fully realise this kind of visionary music-making and in turn give a little hope for the future of art and music in this country.

– Mike Flynn

– Photos by Felix Mulderrig

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Andrew McCormack returns with Graviton: …

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack storms back with the second volume...

Read More.....

Jazz Cafe sax summit kicks off second Lo…

Following its successful inaugural run last year, the London Saxophone...

Read More.....

Steam Down Collective, Emma-Jean Thackra…

The fourth edition of the Jazz Stroud Festival takes place...

Read More.....

McFerrin Moves Estonian Voices To Jubila…

The second half of Tallinn’s 10-day Jazzkaar festival was particularly...

Read More.....

Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington an…

The line-up for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival is...

Read More.....

Williams And Mancio Find Home With Subli…

  Kate Williams and her distinctive Four Plus Three, that’s her...

Read More.....

McBride, Porter, Reeves and Jazz At Linc…

Although it is a respected cultural event throughout the Caribbean...

Read More.....

Major unreleased Tubby Hayes Fontana alb…

Christmas comes early for fans of the late, great Brit-jazz...

Read More.....

Ripsaw Get Rolling

Baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts and guitarist Anton Hunter take their...

Read More.....

Cello Fellows Honsinger, Dixon & Lon…

The fifth annual Chicago Jazz String Summit took place at...

Read More.....

Bristol Jazz Fest launches Crowdfunder l…

The Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival has launched a...

Read More.....

Marcus Miller, Tim Garland and Leïla Mar…

The full line-up for this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival has...

Read More.....

Joshua Redman And Sosa Electrify Spirits…

After last year’s swelter, Cheltenham Festival offered a more temperate climate for...

Read More.....

Friedlander Frames Family Memories At Ka…

  If many contemporary jazz festivals opt for maximum numbers, gigs-wise...

Read More.....

Bonsai band bounce out for album and UK…

Progressive jazz five-piece Bonsai – formerly known as Jam Experiment...

Read More.....

Prieto Exhibits Latin Prowess, While Med…

This 30th edition of the Savannah Music Festival featured a...

Read More.....

Jazz 625 BBC4 Live broadcast and Free St…

With Cheltenham Jazz Festival set for a busy six days...

Read More.....

Steam Down Collective, Sons Of Kemet, Ca…

This year’s Jazz FM Awards ceremony took place at Shoreditch...

Read More.....

Ribot Leads Revolutionary Call At Jazz E…

Portugal’s premier experimental jazz bash, Jazz em Agosto, adopts a...

Read More.....

Cinematic Orchestra, Friday Arena and Ba…

The organisers of this year’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension …

  Kicking off this evening’s set with a high-octane crash through...

Read More.....

Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano and Lu…

This year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, its 27th edition, runs...

Read More.....

Stanley Clarke Captivates With Crowd-Sur…

As Return to Forever bass legend Stanley Clarke (pictured above) opened...

Read More.....

Bro, Seim and Gustafsson amid the Scandi…

  As a snapshot of the great charm of Vossa Jazz's...

Read More.....

Laura Mvula, Melt Yourself Down and Alin…

  Love Supreme continue to expand the brand by bringing an...

Read More.....

Empirical get set for Distraction Tactic…

Multi-award winning London four-piece Empirical release the second part of...

Read More.....

Thrice is the charm for APA Cole Porter …

Say what you like about America (and I frequently do)...

Read More.....

Blue Note President Don Was To Receive P…

Don Was, the President of the iconic Blue Note Records...

Read More.....

Brad Mehldau finds Gabriel on Biblical n…

Revered US pianist Brad Mehldau is set to release his...

Read More.....

Tommy Smith and the SNJO dazzle with a m…

The world premiere of Norse Myths took place at Aberdeen...

Read More.....

David Sinclair 1935 – 2019

David Sinclair, one of the most insightful and affectionately-regarded photographers...

Read More.....

Kinch and Siegel lead the collective sto…

Ousted from its Colston Hall home by the builders, the...

Read More.....

Mark Nightingale's Big Band Go Large At …

  Trombonist Mark Nightingale is the most accommodating of virtuosi. He’ll...

Read More.....

Open letter leads protest at cuts to Rad…

Over 500 leading musicians from across the jazz, folk and...

Read More.....

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival director’s ‘…

The Irish jazz world has been shaken by the sudden...

Read More.....

George Coleman, Jimmy Owens and Frank Lo…

The Annual SAM Benefit concert will be held on 13 April...

Read More.....

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@colin_webster oops
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@astralsocialite @DOSMMXVI Music careers mapped out as revenge strategy - where's Iain Sinclair?
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA