Friday 16th January ‘15
This was a very rare opportunity to see this group live in Birmingham. Threeway have been in existence as a Trio for ten years. For this gig, vibraphone player Lewis Wright was added to the mix, thus allowing the group to reprise their latest album ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’.
Threeway consist of keyboard player Steve Lodder, bass guitarist Ben Crosland and Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugelhorn. The music for the evening was largely drawn from the band’s last album, with a couple of choice classics from the Great American Songbook included for good measure. The venue is a comparatively small upstairs pub room and it was pleasing to see an almost full house. For me, it was an added pleasure to see, up close and personal, three musicians whom I had long admired via their recordings.
These are virtuoso musicians who are so comfortable with each other that their gentle music seems to fall naturally upon the ears. Deceptively effortless playing – the keynote here is melody. There is no showboating and the musicians’ natural modesty seemed to complement the music perfectly. At the same time the music demanded attention and the attentive audience sat enthralled throughout the evening. Steve Waterman’s circular breathing closed one particular tune in a quietly dramatic fashion. Compositions were provided by all three of the core band members and it is testament to their wonderful melodies that their interpretation of a song always associated with Doris Day, ‘Secret Love,’ could almost have been one of their own compositions.
All credit to the guys at Birmingham Jazz for bringing Threeway to town.
Words and photography: Alan Musson
LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK
This is a band that gives the term "chamber jazz" a good name. All three are virtuoso players who know each other so well that their improvisations just seem to fall into place. It's subtle music – warm, melodic and gently intriguing. Ben Crosland, bassist and leader, composes most of the tunes, with occasional contributions from pianist Steve Lodder and trumpeter Steve Waterman. This time, they are joined for about half the programme by vibraphonist Jim Hart, who proves to be the perfect guest. In the absence of drums, his instrument adds a gently percussive sparkle to the proceedings.
Dave Gelly, The Observer 1st December 2013
Threeway are among the best exponents of the “chamber jazz” idiom…The three core members are excellent players and composers and the tunes gathered here offer both strong melodic content and plenty of scope for improvisation by three masters of the genre. The judicious use of electric instruments adds to the breadth of the group’s sound and the addition of Hart’s vibes brings even more colour and rhythmic impetus, he’s an inspired choice as a guest …this typically well crafted album offers the opportunity for listeners to enjoy Threeway’s delicate strengths as the group celebrate ten years of subtly creative music making.
The Jazz Mann 1st February 2014
With the addition of leading vibraphonist Jim Hart, this unfashionable but eloquent chamber bop trio led by bassist Ben Crosland and featuring Steve Lodder and Steve Waterman deliver on quality
Jazzwise, February 2014
The foursome generate plenty of impetus on their own – meaning the absence of a drummer becomes irrelevant. Moods vary from piece to piece (the vast majority of them coming via the pen of Crosland) and the musicians offer a constantly articulate story with Hart integrating into the overall picture and not standing out as an obvious ‘tag on’….The overall effect may be a little too polite for the jazz dive, but on its own terms it has considerable charm
Peter Gamble, Jazz Journal, April 2014
Threeway - bassist and composer Ben Crosland, pianist Steve Lodder and trumpeter/flugelhornist Steve Waterman - already has two critically-acclaimed CDs to their credit, and this immensely enjoyable new recording will certainly add to the group's reputation. Looking Forward, Looking Back is dedicated to the memory of bass master Jeff Clyne, with whom Crosland studied early in his career. The track Blues for Jeff is one of Crosland's appealing and strongly melodic compositions…Much as I admire drummers, it's always refreshing to hear a group succeed in swinging hard without the driving pulse of cymbals and percussive punctuation. Threeway succeed admirably, and this album can certainly be recommended.
John Watson www.jazzcamera.co.ok
The music is subtle and warm, and Hart compensates for the absence of drums in that he adds rhythmic impetus in a gentle way; the improvisations float along, always with a sense of purpose and with great regard for each other’s ideas. Most of the compositions are by Crosland and have plenty of improvisional possibilities... This is gentle, absorbing music which constantly maintains interest – who could ask for anything more?
Greg Murphy, Jazz Rag, Winter 2014
THE BEN CROSLAND OCTET
BONINGTON THEATRE, NOTTINGHAM
Ben's men set pace for brilliance...
BASS player Ben Crosland formed his Yorkshire-based quintet just ten years ago and Jazz Services are helping the group to celebrate by organising a six-gig tour which stopped off at the Bonington Theatre on Thursday. For the Bonington gig the quintet was augmented by Steve Waterman (trumpet), Alan Skidmore (tenor sax) and Mark Nightingale (trombone). Led from the rear by Ben's bass guitar, the quintet piano-less rhythm section incorporated the impeccable, disciplined drumming of Dave Tyas and guitarist Steve Buckley, an elegant and graceful soloist. Rod Mason chose from an impressive collection of reeds including four saxes, flute and bass clarinet. His contributions revealed a consummate dedicated musician. Mike Hall, another saxophonist, played tenor and soprano, with a more biting and metallic approach. Steve Waterman was introduced on a Crosland original, Ingleborough Heights, highlighting his crackling tone playing flugel horn. Northern Run, another of Ben's compositions brought on Alan Skidmore, who added even more muscle to the front line. Mark Nightingale, another world class player, was introduced on a ballad, Blue. His expressive lyrical trombone, incredible imagination and dexterity never flagged in a flawless performance. The wide diversity of instruments and superb arrangements produced unusual voicing, exciting sounds and brilliant solos. The Moonraker was a typical example - a powerful number with Mingus-like lines launched by Mason's baritone sax and Mark Nightingale's trombone.
Alan Joyce, Nottingham Evening Post, March 4th. 2000
photos by: Bob Meyrick
BEN CROSLAND QUARTET, FEATURING STEVE WATERMAN
LAWRENCE BATLEY THEATRE, HUDDERSFIELD
Infectious playing packed with surprises
Mar 22 2004
By The Huddersfield Daily Examiner
JAZZ is supposed to be "the sound of surprise", but sometimes it can be the music of bland predictability.
Fortunately, the Ben Crosland Quartet, led by the Huddersfield bassist and composer, is not strong on predictability. To be sure, the group works within fairly tight arrangements, but plenty of latitude is left for the musicians to strike out on strange tangents and for numbers to take on a new and surprising character.
This was best illustrated at Saturday's Huddersfield Jazz performance by the band's approach to the standards The Way You Look Tonight and Once I Had a Secret Love, two rather saccharine show tunes which were thoroughly deconstructed by the Crosland quartet, particularly by the principal soloists, trumpeter Steve Waterman and guitarist Stuart McCallum.
Secret Love in particular was turned inside out, first by Waterman's unrestrained virtuosity and then by McCallum's highly original approach to jazz improvisation. He has the fast, free flowing technique and harmonic awareness of the jazz player combined with the edge of a rock musician and a willingness to use electronic effects sparingly.The result is a highly exploratory solo style, which remains intriguing from the beginning of a gig to its end.
Most of the quartet's repertoire consists of original compositions by Crosland or Waterman.Ben Crosland himself, a rock solid bass guitarist, is a highly experienced jazz composer and arranger who actually has the ability to come up with a memorable melody. For example, Heartland is a very poignant tune - beautifully put over by Waterman on flugel horn - which would provide some TV drama producer with a good theme.
Any tendency towards sentimentality was quickly subverted when both Waterman and McCallum introduced some dirty blues phrasing into their solos.The dynamic young drummer Dave Walsh completes the quartet and the back line of the group works very closely together - as evidenced by the amount of gleefully conspiratorial grinning that was going on all night.It was almost as infectious as the music.
BEN CROSLAND QUARTET,
FEATURING STEVE WATERMAN
THE SPIN, OXFORD, 30th June 2005
Bass player Ben Crosland is in many ways the perfect band leader. He brings together great musicians and then sits in the background, an avuncular presence holding down a smooth, solid bass line while keeping an eye on the proceedings. He has no pretences to play like an angel but he gathers angels around him and has held his own quartet together for some years now, no mean feat in the fluid world of jazz.
The particular musical angels - both key members of Crosland's quartet since its inception - are Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugelhorn and Stuart McCallum on guitar. Waterman is well known on the jazz circuit as a lyrical player with extraordinary technical prowess who also composes, teaches and is the author of a benchmark trumpet tutor. McCallum, on the other hand, was a new force to me. Sitting nonchalantly on his amp throughout the evening, looking as if he was strumming a few chords in his back room, he showed himself to be right in the groove and master of a truly individual approach.
Although it was clear from the first number that there was a fine quartet on the stage, the music didn't really come together immediately and the first couple of Crosland compositions seemed rather bland. Then Waterman played his own ballad October Arrival, a beautiful tune full of melodic surprises and harmonic depth. This was followed by Crosland's A Knife Through Butter, an upbeat number that gave McCallum the opportunity to stretch out, using a masterly combination of fast runs and chord figures that were an excellent contrast to Waterman's pyrotechnics on trumpet. Drummer Matt Home also showed us how to build a percussion solo from quite minimal use of a small kit.
In the second set, with a well chosen selection of mostly original pieces, the band really got into their stride. In Crosland's Seachange, McCallum showed how he could play with great rhythmic intensity still without turning up the volume or moving from his relaxed position. Waterman is the only trumpeter I know who has mastered circular breathing, which allows one to play on without pausing for breath, and yet he manages to maintain a perfectly accented line. The evening ended with Waterman's Destination Unknown, in which the trumpeter gave us one more demonstration of his extraordinary skills ending on a seamless flow of notes.
Paul Medley, The Oxford Mail
JOHN ETHERIDGE TRIO NORTH
THE VORTEX, LONDON, 30th NOVEMBER 2008
One of John Etheridge's great heroes, Frank Zappa, once (characteristically) used a common criticism of himself as an album title: Shut Up'n Play Yer Guitar. This is basically the approach followed by Trio North, in which Etheridge stretches out in the company of bassist Ben Crosland and drummer Dave Tyas.
His material, whether he's playing with organist and saxophonist or just with a rhythm section, is usually drawn from a broad spectrum of contemporary music, and so it was no surprise to find him starting his performance with R&B, moving swiftly on to a bop classic (Dizzy Gillespie's 'Wee'), then subjecting the odd samba (Jobim's 'How Insensitive') and jazz standard ('You Don't Know What Love is', 'Love for Sale') to Etheridge-trio treatment.
In the latter case, this saw the Porter tune tastefully (though its writer would probably not have agreed, given his celebrated fussiness about changes to his songs) 'funked-up' so that tension and tightness were injected into it, and Etheridge's sharp, spiralling runs made all the more effective for being compressed into the funk format.
With Crosland and Tyas, as Etheridge points out in the liner-notes to the trio's recently released album, Stitched Up, 'a strong, flexible and resourceful rhythm unit …', this was (again to quote Etheridge) a gig that fell 'nicely between the hit and miss of a pick-up band and the strictures of a fully rehearsed outfit'.
JOHN ETHERIDGE TRIO NORTH
THE CORNER HOUSE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE, 27th NOVEMBER 2008
...There was nothing remotely lukewarm, either, when John Etheridge's Trio North played Newcastle's Corner House Hotel, the guitarist's dazzling fluency impressively aided by West Yorkshire's Ben Crosland on bass and Dave Tyas on drums. Etheridge also included a fine extended solo set ranging from rippling Township jazz to hard bop virtuosity.
Chris Yates, North East Round Up, Jazz UK
BEN CROSLAND QUARTET
ZEFFIRELLIS, AMBLESIDE, 19th SEPTEMBER 2009
Well worth calling into Zeffirellis in Ambleside for Ben Crosland's band, featuring stalwarts Rod Mason on saxophone, Dave Tyas on drums and Ben himself on bass. New to me was Manchester based pianist Paul Kilvington, who was outstanding. The band's repertoire was mainly drawn from the Steps and Steps Ahead catalogue. Happily, the days are long gone when the UK scene was highly London-centric and the gig emphasised yet again the overall strength in depth of jazz musicians across the UK.
John Blandford, Scene & Heard, Jazz UK