Ben Cottrell – composer, saxophonist and bandleader – shares his ultimate Spotify playlist with Brighter Sound.

Ben is best known as the director of the award-winning Beats & Pieces Big Band, but is also a prolific composer and orchestral arranger.  His works have been performed and recorded by world renowned orchestras such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and The Heritage Orchestra.  This year, we’re delighted to welcome Ben as one of our professional mentors for Change Or Be Changed, our brand new commissioning opportunity for young composers.

We’re also delighted that Ben will join Graphene Suite composer Sara Lowes for a one-off Sing City Young Composers Workshop on 24 February.  Find out more and sign up for a free place here.


Ben Cottrell’s Spotify Playlist

This playlist is probably a fair reflection of my musical influences and some of my favourite tracks right now – but all could change tomorrow, and yesterday was probably completely different as well! One of the great things about having access to so much music instantaneously, is that as musicians we can easily be influenced by anything and everything, and the infinite combination of different influences can lead to some really exciting things.

The first four tracks are loosely the ‘jazz’ tracks – but hopefully within the four you can see just what a broad range of different things the word ‘jazz’ can cover! From the saxophone/strings combination of the Stan Getz track to the rock and punk energy of Acoustic Ladyland; then the heart wrenchingly beautiful and emotional trumpet playing of Ambrose Akinmusire and the complex arrangements and improvisations of Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset. Important to note that both Ambrose and Marius are both only in their early thirties – jazz is very much an exciting place to be right now.

1. I’m Late, I’m Late – Stan Getz

2. Iggy – Acoustic Ladyland

3. Regret (No More) – Ambrose Akinmusire

4. Birds – Marius Neset, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra

Next there are four tracks from a more ‘pop’ angle – first up are The Beach Boys, check out the amazing orchestration and how that lifts the whole song… All done live in the studio too, none of the endless overdubs you often find today! I couldn’t fail to include tracks by Radiohead and Björk as they’re both huge influences on me… I really like Just because of how Thom Yorke manages to cram so many seemingly unrelated chords and harmonic progressions into one song and make it all seem so natural, completely disguising the musical complexity, and the Everything Everything track does something similar – they’re another one of my favourite current bands, and a good example of merging lots of different influences together to form a really unique and engaging sound.

5. Wouldn’t It Be Nice – Digitally Remastered 96 – The Beach Boys

6. Just – Radiohead

7. Hyper-Ballad – Björk

8. Photoshop Handsome  – Everything Everything

Finally there are a couple of tracks by ‘classical’ composers, but again they’re not necessarily what you would expect… I studied classical saxophone at the RNCM and this movement was one of my all time favourite pieces to play – it was written at a time when the composer’s friend was terminally ill, and you can really hear all the complex emotions in there from sadness to anger to despair and eventually to optimism. The final track is by a Scottish composer called Anna Meredith, who alongside writing for orchestras and chamber ensembles also releases her own electronic music. She is another artist who has built her own unique sound from a huge variety of sources – check out this pulsating mashup of synths, drums, clarinet and cello.

9. Saxophone Concerto, Op. 59, “Cyber-bird”: II. Bird in Grief: Andante – Takashi Toshimatsu, Nobuya Sugawa

10. R-Type – Anna Meredith