Beats & Pieces Big Band – “Big Ideas”


Boxer Livingstone Bramble never became a household name. But during his brief run in the sport, he presented one of the more intriguing styles of fighting. Equally capable of thriving in a slugfest, he also was an effective counter-puncher and able to jab and move with the best of them. Often, he did both during a fight, creating stylistic problems for his opponents, who were often more accustomed to seeing one-dimensional fight strategies. In his Lightweight title fights with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Bramble traded bombs with Mancini in one round, then would spend the next counter-punching, and he’d switch between these styles repeatedly during a fight.  All of this springs to mind as I listen to the Beats & Pieces Big Band release Big Ideas. You just can’t afford to make assumptions of what you’ll hear from them round to round. It’s just best to keep your guard up and your ears open.

For instance, opening track “Bake” starts out counter-punching…

It begins with a few body blows just to get the heart rushing, but then quickly shuffles in and out of punching range, not boxing and not slugging, just finding its openings to do some damage.  The motion almost resembles dancing.  Maybe it is.

Now, let’s introduce your album personnel: Ben Cottrell (director), Anthony Brown, Sam Healey, Ben Watte (saxophones), Tim Cox, Simon Lodge, Paul Strachan (trombones), Owen Bryce, Graham South, Nick Walters (trumpets), Anton Hunter (guitar), Patrick Hurley (piano & Rhodes), Harrison Wood (bass), and Finlay Panter (drums).

Second track “YAFW (Part III)” just soars, even as piano jitters along.  Trumpets arch overhead, saxes buffet the wind from beneath, and guitar notes are the contrails marking the path.  In his fight with Tyrone “Butterfly” Crawley, Livingstone Bramble outboxed the boxer.  The details are fuzzy in my mind, but it was the 14th round and Bramble was gracefully circling the ring, peppering Crawley with jabs and right hands, forcing the light-hitting Crawley (who only had something like five knockouts in a thirty fight career) to assume the role of brawler, a situation which had him exhausted by the tenth round.  Meanwhile, Bramble kept along at the same speed, throwing shots, moving around the ring, unfazed by the late round, and as announcer (Gil Clancy?) observed that, for Bramble, the fight was “a walk in the park.”  That’s “YAFW (Part III)”… a sensation of a long exhausting journey that exudes a sense of exhilaration and ease.

And then some tracks, like “Jazzwalk” come right out looking for blood.  Whether it’s the rapid-jab of bass or the right hook-left cross of guitar and trombone, or the fierce stare of trumpets and snarl of saxophones, it’s a staredown that says someone isn’t leaving the album on both feet.  Nice to hear some ferocity.  Better yet, to feel it.

Overall, Big Ideas is a fascinating mix of traditional big band and modern composition, with some pop-rock elements fused into the foundation.  It’s got plenty of fight and mixes it up to keep you thinking.  Apparently, the group is mostly (or all) comprised of young jazzers, which makes this release even more promising in that they will only continue to grow and develop their sounds, both as an ensemble and individually, but that the big band format hasn’t lost favor for yet another generation of musicians.

Released on the Efpi Records label.  Jazz from the UK.

Stream the entire album on their bandcamp page, as well as purchase it there in a number of file formats (including lossless) at no additional charge.

Available at eMusic.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3