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As the name implies, this wasn't a frontline horn with backing set up but a trio of equals playing lines that complemented and supported each other. Of the many highlights, Secret Love with its bravura trumpet intro stood out before it was kicked upfield for the piano to carry with some fancy fingerwork before trumpet picked up the ball and ran with a triple-tongued blast that may have begun in Arban's Method For Trumpet but didn't end there! Breath-taking, or, to be more precise, circular breath-taking.

http://lance-bebopspokenhere.blogspot.com, 26th September 2010




Threeway was established in 2004 by Ben Crosland, a bandleader, composer, and highly accomplished electric bass player. His aim was to explore playing his own original compositions without percussion. Besides Ben, the combo comprises Steve Waterman, a highly regarded trumpeter who also plays flugelhorn, and well-known pianist, Steve Lodder who also features on keyboards.

The gig featured mainly Ben's compositions from the group's two CDs, Conversations (2006) and Songs of the Year (2009), the latter featuring numbers portraying different seasons or aspects of the year. Threeway is a tightly-knit, highly integrated outfit in which the artistes display an intimate understanding of each other's approach. They combine technical perfection with great accessibility - to the extent that their music appeals to jazz novices and connoisseurs alike. Their style is instantly recognisable and their melodies remain long in the mind. The composition titles, for instance, Crystal Morning, Wine under the Stars, Sunshine and Showers, and Autumn Dance, are evocative of the group's relaxed approach, enabling it to experiment and explore without inhibition.

Take Across the Land, a composition by Steve Lodder. While playing piano with his left hand, he manipulated the keyboards with the other hand to produce a hauntingly surreal sheen to underpin the melody. As a complement, Steve Waterman played on top with successive melodic contrasts, moving from a gentle tone to rasping, breathless climax. This exploratory approach typically weaved in and out of each number.

The group is equally at home with standards. Days of Wine and Roses involved similar exploratory features in a startlingly effective way. Usually a ballad, this tempo was upbeat. Steve Waterman's opening statement on trumpet was little short of a masterpiece, a richly lyrical and highly imaginative piece of improvisation, insistently supported by Ben Crosland's bass. Steve Lodder provided a sparkling, foot-tapping solo - he works the piano hard and it seems to drive the others to greater heights. Another standard, Secret Love, was also taken at a highish tempo, with Lodder again leading the way after a sensitive, gentle opening from Waterman which simply beckoned the fast, swinging rendition which followed.

And then to the final number - Destination Unknown, a composition by Steve Waterman - and a tour de force indeed. It found the group expressing more than a hint of jazz rock. The climactic solo, a five-minute unaccompanied repetition of the theme by Steve Waterman, brought the gig to a rousing and memorable close. The group clearly enjoyed the whole experience. Typical was Ben's comment on the venue, 'I wish we could pack it up and take it with us everywhere,' he exclaimed. At a time when some jazz takes itself too seriously, it was good to see artistes offering impeccably presented, eclectic jazz - and so obviously relishing every minute.
Rupert Kendrick, Northampton Contemporary Jazz



Tidal wave of applause from fans

THIS was one of those happy occasions where the musicians got such a kick out of playing together that the audience was swept along with them.

Ordinarily, the Ben Crosland Quartet would have been enough for a splendid evening of jazz, but we also had the added bonus of tenor sax player Alan Skidmore’s presence.

Described as a heavyweight of UK and European jazz, Alan has a distinguished history and his abilities seem undiminished by the passage of time. He begins his solos with warmth and swing, playing with magisterial authority. Gradually increasing the intensity of emotion, he then includes honks, whoops, squeals and the repetition of note clusters at finger-breaking speed. These effects seem to be obligatory for many sax players; those who eschew them are rare exceptions.

It must take a superbly accomplished and confident saxophonist to agree to share a stage with someone with a reputation as large as Alan’s. We had just such a one in Rod Mason, nicknamed the Room Darkener by Alan. Rod towers above everyone like Hagrid among Hogwarts pupils. As a saxophonist Rod is as good as you’ll get. He was outstanding throughout, teeming with ideas whether on soprano, alto or tenor.

Next in altitude was Ben Crosland, who perched on a tall stool. With his shaved head and amiable face, he presided over events like a benign Buddha. His work on fretless bass provided a rhythmic anchor whilst his solos demonstrated great skill.

The brilliant pianist Paul Kilvington was the musician closest to the ground as, although rising from the stool in his enthusiasm, he crouched very low over the keyboard. In this uncomfortable looking stance he played wonderfully original music. Sometimes he was delicate or could drive powerfully.  Often he created counter-rhythms within his solos but above all he conjured a seemingly endless stream of unpredictable invention.

Dave Tyas, mopping his face with a towel that was the exact shade of red to match his drum kit, proved himself the complete artist; driving in ensemble work, sparkling in four-bar exchanges and able to make creative thunder when called for.

This band gave us a fresh repertoire played with ebullient zest. Appropriately for a seaside venue, the audience engulfed them in a tidal wave of applause.



Bassist and composer Ben Crosland is a key figure on the jazz scene in the North of England. Based in Huddersfield he is an experienced band leader and a prolific side man and also runs his own record label Jazz Cat, an outlet for his own recordings plus those by saxophonist Rod Mason. Crosland has been a previous visitor to the RAJB as part of Mason’s Elements group and guitarist John Etheridge’s Trio North.

Threeway is Crosland’s drummer less group and features two of his regular musical partners Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugel horn and Steve Lodder on piano and keyboards. The well received “Conversations” (Jazz Cat, 2005) was a good introduction to the trio’s sound, intimate, but thanks to Crosland’s electric bass surprisingly rhythmic. This was music with the refinement of chamber jazz but with enough sparkle and energy to avoid becoming becalmed. In 2008 the trio refined their approach with “Songs of the Year”, a series of twelve themed pieces illustrating the English seasons, a project that grew out of a commission for Crosland’s quintet (the musicians from Threeway plus Rod Mason and guitarist Stuart McCallum) at the 2003 Marsden Jazz Festival. My review of “Songs of The Year” can be found elsewhere on this site.

For today’s performance Threeway drew upon both of their recordings and also included a couple of pieces by Steve Waterman. They began with “Crystal Morning” from “Songs”, an aural depiction of a crisp winter’s day with Waterman’s bright trumpet depicting the clarity and sharpness of the weather conditions. Lodder’s equally sparkling piano solo was well balanced by Crosland’s excellent bass playing, providing a rhythmic pulse but also setting up teasing counter melodies. Crosland is an electric bass specialist, capable of producing a sound of genuine warmth and subtlety from his fretless instrument. He’s an innately tasteful player, clearly influenced by Jaco Pastorius but without the latter’s penchant for grandstanding.

“Wine under The Stars” from the same album depicted balmy summer’s evenings- and in fairness the weather in Lichfield was pretty good today, perhaps “Beer under the Canvas” would have been a more appropriate title. It began with Crosland’s appropriately languid solo bass intro followed by the warm tones of Waterman on flugel horn and the gentle lyricism of Lodder at the piano. The RAJB committee always hire (presumably) a proper grand piano which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. Mind you there have been occasions when exuberant performers such as Tom Cawley and John Law, both of whom I admire greatly, have given it a bit of a bashing.

Still keeping with “Songs of the Year” the piece “Sunshine and Showers” was a showcase for the trumpet skills of Waterman, his open horn soloing ranging from mellow to fiery yet always possessed of a dazzling clarity. His own “October Arrival” then allowed him to demonstrate equal skills on the flugel horn with an unaccompanied introduction and subsequent solo alongside features for Lodder on piano and Crosland on bass.

The trio closed their first set by turning to their first album for “Across the Land” with Lodder establishing a loop of synth string sounds to cushion enterprising solos from Waterman on trumpet and the composer on both piano and electric keyboards, frequently playing both simultaneously.

This was a hugely enjoyable first set that had illustrated the intelligent writing of both Crosland and Waterman and the excellent instrumental skills of all three musicians. Despite the occasional sound glitches I was hugely impressed.

Later in the day the trio’s equally enjoyable second set drew more heavily on the “Conversations” repertoire beginning with “Spring in Somerville ”, a title that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on “Songs of the Year”! With features for Waterman on trumpet and Lodder on piano this was a good re-introduction to the trio’s lyrical but surprisingly full sound.

A particular set highlight was the inclusion of Crosland’s tribute to the late Jeff Clyne, “Blues for Jeff”. One of the doyens of British bass playing Clyne was a superb exponent of both the acoustic and electric versions of the instrument and was a superb teacher and educator and all round nice guy. He was a great inspiration to Crosland and was influential with regard to his decision to concentrate on electric bass. After the gig Ben and I talked about Jeff and shared fond reminiscences of Jeff’s late 70’s/early 80’s band Turning Point. Meanwhile this affectionate tribute included solos from Lodder on electric piano and Waterman on trumpet followed by an extensive electric bass feature from Crosland before Waterman restated the appropriately bluesy theme.

The next piece began with a stunning solo trumpet introduction from Waterman encompassing highly embellished cadences as his solo developed in complexity. This was succeeded by (relatively) more straight forward statements from Lodder on piano, Waterman on trumpet and Crosland on bass on this essentially good natured piece.

The trio’s performance concluded with Waterman’s tune “Destination Unknown”, originally recorded for the (very good) 2004 Crosland quartet album “Last Flight Out”. With Crosland at his most rhythmic this was arguably the most forceful number of the two sets with Lodder’s synth interjections punctuating Waterman’s trumpet solo. The keyboard player doubled prog rock style on his solo playing both piano and keyboard and the piece finished with a stunning solo trumpet cadenza from the composer.

Overall I was highly impressed with Threeway, this was chamber jazz performed with good humour and a bit of Northern grit. There was nothing “precious” about this music despite the many moments of beauty and of course the playing was terrific from three highly experienced and professional musicians. Thanks to Ben for taking the time to speak afterwards, he may be a proud northerner but he’s a great asset to the UK jazz scene as a whole.

Ian Mann





As ever Etheridge's rhythm section were rock solid, drummer Dave Tyas relentless in providing energetic drive overlaid with sensitive colour and accent (especially on 'In Your Own Sweet Way' and 'Sister Sadie'), and bass guitarist Ben Crosland was meticulously self disciplined in the exploitation of the 'fretlessness' of his instrument, and demonstrated deep melodic alertness in his exchanges of perfectly judged lead phrases with Etheridge (esp. on 'In Your Own Sweet Way'), and structured solos which brought additional meaning to the numbers in which they were embedded (as in his excellent work on 'See My Baby Once Again') and his soft reflective contributions to the otherwise rocky interpretation of 'Sister Sadie'.

But of course Etheridge was firmly centre stage, and every time I hear him play in the intimate cellar-bar at The Cask, I feel privileged - not just because he is so good but also because even when he plays a small venue he works so hard and with so much honesty.  

On this occasion he was very relaxed, perhaps playing further behind the beat than he normally does, seemingly in no hurry - though in his own time he did reach his usual sheer speed and dazzling dexterity; clipped razor sharp phrasing through 'You Really Got Me' in his own 'The Venerable Bede' a solo which climaxed in a sparkling rapid-fire deluge of precisely directed notes, and some vicariously mean and bitchy work on 'Sister Sadie'.  It seemed to me as if Etheridge's laid back mind set gave him more space to indulge the 3D synaesthetic dimensions of the electric guitarists art, the dimension so well exploited, for example, by both Hendrix and Zappa . . . that is to say, his style seemed to me to be more visual than usual.

Other highlights?  In my notes I described his solo in 'In a Sentimental Mood' as hovering in some dark place without ever falling, blue mooded, driftily melodic, notes scattered like rainbow drops of dew...and as always his interpretation of 'Little Wing' was totally captivating, and the encores, 'a shuffly thing in A' and 'Johnny B Good' tied off a great evening on a perfect high.

'Til next year then, weather and influenza permitting...

Di Watson