Ben Cipolla: Busking the High Street to the Royal Albert Hall

Written by Nick Fogg on .

Ben Cipolla at last year's Marlborough International Jazz FestivalBen Cipolla at last year's Marlborough International Jazz Festival

Jazz megastar, Clare Teal, is a great discoverer of new talent.

After all, she discovered Jamie Cullum. Just five years ago, she was walking down Marlborough High Street on the way to her gig in the big marquee at the International Jazz Festival when she saw a young lad busking a Michael Jackson song.

She was so taken with his talents that she invited him then and there to do a spot in her show singing, as a duo, the Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell classic, ‘There ain’t no mountain high enough’.

From there Ben Cipolla’s career has not looked back.  Not for nothing has his voice been described as ‘like having heavy liquid chocolate dripped into your ears, smooth and rich.’

In those four years he has gone from appearing at the Marlborough Fire Station to performing in the ‘Battle of the Big Bands’ at a Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, where he sang, the Boswell Sisters number, ‘Roll on Mississippi, Roll on’, with Clare and another rising star, Cherise Adams-Burnett.  Those fortunate to have attended this year’s Marlborough Jazz would have seen this fantastic trio at the Town Hall just a few weeks earlier.

Ben was in good company at the Albert Hall.  There were at least ten other performers who’d played Marlborough Jazz on the stage, including Clare, band leader, Guy Barker and the great American saxophonist, Pee Wee Ellis.

Ben, from Great Bedwyn, was educated at St. John’s School and read Popular Music (what else?) at the University of Gloucestershire.  He formed his jazz septet while still at school.  It includes fellow former St. John’s pupil, Jonny Budd, who went on to read Modern Languages at Oxford, on electric guitar and ex-Marlborough College boy, Dan Springate, who became a multi-instrumental music student at Manchester.  Not exactly flush with money, they travelled to their earliest gigs by National Express!  They appeared at the opening ceremony of the Weymouth Olympics in 2012 and they were voted ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Marlborough Jazz Festival in 2014, an event, which he acknowledges, ‘gave us such a great starting platform’.  They’ve appeared at such top festivals as Cheltenham and Glastonbury and at such top locations as the Cadogan Hall. 

It’s difficult to disagree with Jazz FM presenter, Ian Shaw’s simple assessment of Ben Cipolla.  ‘He will be huge. Mark my words.’