Ben Crosland Reviews
Excellent northern bassist/bandleader.
'Fluid and inventive contemporary bassist'.
'His compositions are colourful, beguiling and thoroughly musical'.
Mark Gilbert, Jazz Journal International.
'Ben is, as well as being an excellent bass guitarist, an experienced and intelligent bandleader and composer, who produces characterful but unpretentious writing, with good part writing and, frequently, extremely strong melodies - always a bonus'.
John Etheridge, Musician.
'Clearly an accomplished jazz composer'.
Peter Bevan, Northern Echo.
2nd February 2003.
The only member of this band whose name will be familiar to most British jazz lovers is trumpeter Steve Waterman. At the same time, you can be pretty sure that any project with which he gets involved will be worth paying attention to.
Crosland himself plays nimble, mellow-sounding bass guitar which gives an attractive lightness to the texture and blends beautifully with the guitar of Stuart McCallum and drums of Dave Walsh.
He also composed all but one of these eleven numbers, making imaginative use of the four instruments. Bass guitar and trumpet in unison, for example, make a surprisingly bright and fluid sound. Steve Waterman is a terrific player and this set finds him in excellent form. Let's hope that this new, young band gets the breaks it deserves.
Bassist Ben Crosland has been working tirelessly on his compositions and small groups in the north of England since the early 1980's. 'Heartland' is the latest in a string of albums that reveal a keen writing talent and sound instrumental prowess.
He brings a fusion touch to what is essentially an acoustic small group through light Latin rhythms and the lightly distorted tones of guitarist Stuart McCallum. Brassman Steve Waterman, long a Crosland collaborator, often recalls Kenny Wheeler and Dave Walsh fills the drum stool with lithe aplomb.
It's easy to be dismissive about self-starting local talent, but like all of Crosland's albums, 'Heartland' is an engaging and often surprising album. Its melodies are strong, its thoughtful, controlled tone quietly compelling.
Friday October 25, 2002
Bassist/composer Crosland is on tour with this relaxed but tightly-played contemporary jazz-fusion music up to December, with a quartet including the resourceful trumpeter Steve Waterman. All the compositions here are by Crosland apart from one by Waterman, and the Pat Metheny-influenced guitarist Stuart McCallum is both a strong solo voice and a subtle counterpoise to the trumpeter in delivering the elegant themes.
Waterman's fast bop playing is effortlessly skittish on Diminished Responsibility; there's a sonorous, dreamlike sway to the title track; and there's a quietly lyrical tribute to the late Don Grolnick. An often understated set, but with some excellent writing and playing.
LAST FLIGHT OUT
19th September 2004
It's not easy to keep a band together these days, but Crosland has managed it. This is the quartet's second CD, and there is that indefinable feeling of ease about it that comes from musicians knowing each other's playing intimately.
It reveals itself in firmness of texture and an unhurried use of space. Steve Waterman's trumpet and Stuart McCallum's guitar make a distinctive blend that owes a lot to Waterman's bright, buoyant phrasing. In fact, there is a bubbling good humour about the atmosphere of the whole set, epitomised by Crosland's 'A Knife through Butter', which fairly skips along, propelled by the leader's bass and the drums of Dave Walsh.
There are more ambitious bands around the British jazz scene today, but few which convey a distinct character with such crisp informality.
10th September 2004
The fine quartet headed by Huddersfield bassist Ben Crosland is on tour this month on the back of this new album. Catch them if you can, because the music is very good indeed. It's thoughtful, intelligent jazz that makes its impact thanks to the quality of the original compositions by members of the band and the high degree of interplay between four musicians who know each other well.
Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugelhorn takes most of the solo honours, with some lovely playing on the sweetly lyrical 'Song of the Beck' and his own 'Returning Home', though guitarist Stuart McCallum is not far behind. Crosland and drummer Dave Walsh are, as ever, models of selfless support.
The term 'chamber jazz' has a slightly frosty ring to it, but the small-scale music of this excellent little band is as warm and inviting as any jazz lover could wish. The absence of drums gives it intimacy, and the relaxed pace lends a feeling of expansiveness and ease. The three players are Steve Waterman (trumpet and flugelhorn), Steve Lodder (piano and keyboards) and bassist Ben Crosland, who also writes most of their material. It would be hard to find a more well-matched trio. The interplay among them is unfailingly ingenious without descending into needless complexity.
Dave Gelly, The Observer, 19th March 2006
Threeway is the indefatigable bassist Ben Crosland's latest project, bringing him together once more with trumpeter Steve Waterman and Steve Lodder on keyboards. And an excellent trio they make too. As this CD shows, the players pull off the difficult trick of balancing relaxation and intensity - such a vital ingredient of successful small- group jazz. So Waterman unleashes one of his most powerful solos on Crosland's 'The Road Ahead', without disturbing the basically pensive mood, while Steve Lodder's solos are similarly fluent and full of ideas, yet slotting right into the groove. Most of the tracks are by Crosland, with one each from Waterman and Lodder - the effect is of a real conversation between three outstanding players.
Pete Martin, Jazz UK, May/June 2006
This fine trio is the brainchild of Huddersfield bassist Ben Crosland, who, in the company of familiar cohorts Steve Waterman and Steve Lodder, delivers some thoughtful and attractive jazz. Crosland wrote most of the tracks, and their performance is appropriately conversational, with the lead being swapped between Waterman on either trumpet or flugelhorn, and Lodder on keyboards. 'Minor Alterations', 'Spring in Somerville' and 'The Road Ahead' are particularly good. Worth checking out.
Andrew Vine, Yorkshire Post, 28th April 2006
Three of our finest musicians, Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugelhorn, Steve Lodder on piano and Ben Crosland on bass, perform an attractive programme written mostly by Ben. The title aptly describes the convivial situation with sometimes one holding the floor, passing on to another, then back. All three are on particularly good form.
Peter Bevan, The Northern Echo, 20th April 2006
Ben Crosland (bass), Steve Waterman (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Steve Lodder (piano) make up Threeway, an exemplary jazz trio. Cracking instrumentals without percussion allow extra aural space for players' tonal invention and musical flair to come shining through. Superb.
Keith Ames, Musician, Summer 2006
Bassist Ben Crosland contributed 10 of the 12 original compositions on the disc (the other two provide one each), but the trio's name is well-chosen. This is very much a three-way musical conversation, and a highly compatible one at that. The result is a delightful disc of impeccibly played chamber jazz that isn't going to pin your ears back, but is hugely enjoyable. They set up a relaxed vibe throughout the set, whether at ballad, mid- or up-tempo, but that should not be confused with any lack of vital energy or creativity in the music. Chamber groups with no drummer can sound a little austere at times in jazz settings, but there is never a hint of that here. The warmth and lustre of their individual and collective sound is complemented by lyrical and expressive improvising from all concerned, carried along on a highly responsive group interaction.
Kenny Mathieson, Jazzwise May 2007
John Etheridge is a versatile guitarist whose wizardry enables him to produce a whole anthology of unexpected sounds from a wide range of guitars. Here's a rattling piece that I find so exciting that I feel no need to apologise for calling its timbre 'the apotheosis of the curtain wire'.
Every winter, guitarist John Etheridge loads his car with amplifiers, foot pedals and - space permitting - guitars, leaves the pampered decadence and duplicities of North London and heads up the M1 in the direction of Yorkshire.
There he refreshes his soul with the rugged beauty of that great county, enjoys the straight-talking commonsense of its natives and plays music in the local jazz spots with two of its finest musicians, bassist Ben Crosland and drummer Dave Tyas. In contrast with his other, more closely-written projects, such as the Zappatistas or Soft Machine, John Etheridge's Trio North is a straightforward, uninhibited blowing unit and that is what we hear on this CD.
Kicking off with Ornette Coleman's loping blues, 'Turnaround', Etheridge briefly tosses around a few motific ideas before turning up the heat with some blistering 32nd note passages. Perhaps it's something in the local water, but at times his edgy, intense virtuosity recalls the work of two other outstanding guitarists, both Yorkshire-born - John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth. In a quick change of mood, however, Etheridge follows this with a reflective reading of Carole King's 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow', stating the song as a ballad with just a sprinkling of reharmonisation, and never losing sight of the melody in his subsequent improvisations.
While he also gives a fresh lick of paint to a couple of other pop oldies that are rarely heard in a jazz context - 'Fire and Rain' and 'Sealed with a Kiss', fully half of the 12 tracks on this CD feature Etheridge's own compositions. These range from the straight-ahead groove of the title track, 'Stitched Up', through the delicate 'St Mary's Loch', the Middle Eastern flavours of 'Simbel', with its overlapping textural sounds and drones, to the passionate country-rock 6/8 ballad 'Distant Voice'.
This fine studio album successfully captures the energy and on-the-spot creativity of a John Etheridge live performance along with the breadth of his musical vision.
Charles Alexander, Jazzwise.
This band comes into existence when guitarist John Etheridge plays his annual concert series in Yorkshire, where the other two members are based. As he says in the notes, the gigs 'fall nicely between the hit-and-miss of a pick-up band and the strictures of a fully rehearsed outfit'. From the listener's point of view that translates as the freshness of new ideas combined with the relaxation that comes with familiarity. Bassist Ben Crosland and drummer Dave Tyas keep pace with Etheridge's mercurial imagination and match his ideas so adroitly that altogether this makes a quite outstanding and engrossing set.
Dave Gelly, The Observer.
8th April 2007
Guitarist John Etheridge has so often been an interpreter of other people's music, that it's good to have a set that puts him firmly centre-stage - there are six originals here out of eleven tracks. The unaccompanied 'Simbel' and the melancholy 'St Mary's Loch' are among the highlights, and Etheridge's improvisational fluency and imagination are well captured on straightahead pieces such as 'Turnaround' and 'Softly as in a Morning Sunrise'. His range also extends to unfamiliar vehicles for jazz, like James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain'. Bassist Ben Crosland and drummer Dave Tyas are excellent in the accompanying roles, and the set adds up to a revealing portrait of John Etheridge, much as you would hear him in a club.
Pete Martin, Jazz UK July/August 2007
This is the guitarist's Trio North, an annual get-together that allows some nice balance between the security of a regular band and the adventure and risk of a pick-up situation. Etheridge sounds in sparkling good form throughout, but he's exceptional on the unexpected 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' and the lovely 'St Mary's Loch'. Crosland and Tyas are reminiscent of those redoubtables Cleyndert and Tracey, solidity personified.
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, Ninth Edition.
SONGS OF THE YEAR
Bassist Crosland, a new name to me but Northern-based apparently, is the originator of all the music presented here, 12 pieces in all, and has sub-titled the recording as A Celebration of the English Calendar and Climate. So far, so programmatic, you might say. It's often tricky to assess the validity of such a concept, one man's reaction to a piece entitled, say, 'Sunshine and Showers' may well be markedly different to that intended by the composer. And so on. No matter, for this music works brilliantly on the prosaic level as a series of performances by three stellar musicians.
Crosland's compositions are often quite captivating, the reactions and interplay between Crosland, Waterman and Lodder as near to perfection as anyone could want. Waterman rises to the challenge in exceptional fashion, fluent and centred, building improvisations of consequence, never wrong-footed, while Lodder's classical training allows him to amplify Crosland's intentions and to add compelling textural richness.
The variation of mood is also well-managed, Lodder switching to a Fender Rhodes or Hammond B-3 effect as the piece demands, with Waterman equally at ease on a slow, elegiac piece such as 'Wine Under The Stars' or the sober 'Hymn for Christmas' as well as the more jaunty 'Cats and Dogs'. Given the paucity of instrumentation, one might hanker for more variety. Not so, for the compositional range is satisfying and rewarding'.
Peter Vacher, Jazzwise, September 2009.
Threeway comprises electric bassist/composer Ben Crosland, trumpeter Steve Waterman and keyboard player Steve Lodder; this is their second album, their first, Conversations, having been released in 2006.
All the material on it is by Crosland and its twelve tracks follow the course of the year, from 'Crystal Morning' and 'Frosty Night, Cosy Fire' through to the likes of 'The Harvest' and 'Cats and Dogs' to 'Hymn for Christmas', but the album is not rigidly programmatic, though phrases such as 'chilly lyricism' and 'warm-toned flugelhorn' are not entirely in appropriate.
Subtly, rather than fiercely interactive, the trio lives up to its name courtesy not only of the sharing of solo duties, but also of the gently persuasive interplay that characterises the band's approach.
Lodder is mellifluous and subtly assertive as appropriate; Waterman sensibly rings the textual changes available from flugelhorn and open and muted trumpet (the latter particularly effective in conjunction with Lodder's organ), and with acoustic and electric piano also judiciously utilised, this is a surprisingly varied, and consistently accomplished, elegant and musicianly set from three polished performers.
Chris Parker, www.vortexjazz.co.uk/cd-reviews.html
A chamber trio that generates intimacy and heat. The immediacy of Steve Waterman's trumpet blends with the rhapsodic keyboard of Steve Lodder and Ben Crosland's electric bass to delightful effect. Crosland's compositions celebrate the English climate and are suitably bracing and plaintive.
Chris Ingham, Mojo, October 2009.
Of course Miles Davis wrote the book on lyrical trumpet. What's great about Steve Waterman is the way he eschews Miles' dessicated corpsewalking in favour of vigorous, full-blooded sensitivity. Always melodic, always well-turned and elegant, he achieves a singing grace on the tunes here. And what tunes! All penned by bassist Ben Crosland and inspired by 'the English calendar and climate', they are as attractive as jazz has a right to be. The third member of the trio, Steve Lodder, is a tasteful accompanist, adding an undercurrent of joy to his exquisite piano trimmings. The absence of a drummer leaves more room for interplay, and Waterman, Crosland and Lodder are wonderfully simpatico partners. Perfection of its type.
Mike Butler, Manchester Evening News
There is a pastoral quality to 'Songs Of The Year' that suggests an English idyll and Crosland reveals himself to be an excellent writer and 'musical illustrator' - there are some great tunes here. However, the album never lapses into folk whimsy, there are far too many strong musical ideas and genuine jazz playing for that. All three players have superb chops which stand up well in this exposed musical setting and the spirit of discipline and group interaction is strong throughout. 'Songs Of The Year' is a quiet delight and an album that sounds good whatever the season.
The Jazz Mann
Simple idea – a dozen impressionistic pieces portraying months of the year. Simple format – trumpet (Steve Waterman), piano (Steve Lodder) and Bass (Ben Crosland, who is also the composer). It would be easy to miss this among the avalanche of new British jazz material, but it’s a real delight, something that you can keep dipping into. The ensemble playing has the togetherness that only comes from top musicians who know each other well and think as one. Everything is clear and precise yet full of delicacy and feeling.
Dave Gelly, The Observer, 23rd May 2010
AN OPEN PLACE
‘…a beautifully warm and intimate sound….there is an open air, meditative atmosphere about the whole programme. The solo playing is immaculate.’ Dave Gelly, The Observer
‘….a supremely accomplished band….richly varied but consistently approachable pieces.’ Chris Parker..
‘…boasts themes that are written and arranged by Crosland, with the ear massaging, not to mention ear catching, sometimes chorale-like brass (but not brassy) harmonies and riffs being the real highlight of the recording.’ Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise
‘….I was also much taken by An Open Place from the Ben Crosland Brass Group. With two trumpets and two trombones out front, there’s a warmth and sense of colour to these pieces that really engages. A reminder that hot or cool, jazz can equal or better any other musical form for expressive affect’. Duncan Heining, Jazz UK
‘…The eight pieces –all by Ben Crosland – are rich in brass ensemble writing, the group sounding like a winning combination of a jazz combo and a northern brass band…the absence of drums results in an uncluttered sound.’ Simon Adams, Jazz Journal
‘…music of considerable depth which is explored fully by the musicians…There is so much to be heard throughout this recording…the music is accessible and enduring’. Greg Murphy, Jazz Rag
Making a - to some surprising - appearance in fifth place behind Green, Dankworth, Skeat and Cleyndert in the recent British Jazz Awards, bass guitarist, composer and bandleader Ben Crosland has been a leading light in contemporary jazz in the north of England for some years.
For this CD he unites an all-star cast of brass players (Steve Waterman, Martin Shaw, Mark Nightingale and Barnaby Dickinson) for a series of pieces based around works of art in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The result is a record of pure class. Given the heavyweight quality of the horn players one might expect Crosland to be rather outshone on his own album, but both his playing, and more importantly, his writing are captivating throughout. Indeed, his skills as arranger are such that he is able to conjure a whole range of moods from what could be, in lesser hands, a limited tonal palate. For example, there’s the straight brass chorale of In Memoriam, the funky Walkin’ the Cat and the gorgeous double flugelhorn writing on Black Steps. With deft use of Steve Lodder’s keyboard, Crosland is also able to hint at much bigger textures and the lack of a drummer is a decided plus in this instance.
Needless to say, all the soloists are at the top of their game, but it remains Crosland’s compositional gift that most impresses. Try Pink Lady, Brown Dog, a theme worthy of Horace Silver, so insidiously catchy is its melody.
Simon Spillett (intended for inclusion in Jazz Rag, but never published)
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