Review: Beats & Pieces Big Band, Speiegeltent, Chapelfield Gardens

Being billed as 'artfully bombastic' is a surefire way to raise expectations.

When 14 youthful – some schoolboyish – faces took to the stage inside the atmospheric Speigeltent that has sprouted up at the centre of Chapelfield Gardens, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, save that it was guaranteed to be good.

This Manchester-based big band, fronted by Ben Cottrell, entertained a late night crowd with feel-good, frenetic jazz grooves.

Opening with Cottrell's Bake, a highly-charged dance tune with a funky beat and blinding alto-sax solo by Sam Healey, the orchestra set the scene for an evening of contemporary big band music.

Sisterhood, composed by tenor saxophonist Ben Watte, was an original that ebbed and flowed and caught my attention.

However this is a band that sounds best live and loud. When the audience's attention started to wane a little it was hard to hear the quieter moments over the rising chatter. But with bags of charm and a few surprises up their sleeves, Beats & Pieces were still a force to be reckoned with.

Their show was well suited to the Spiegeltent, which upon first impression felt like stepping into a bygone era, and it was a strong start to the festival's much anticipated late night programme.

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• NNF11 runs from May 6 to 21. You can book online at, by phone on 01603 766400 or at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office

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