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'Excellent northern bassist/bandleader
The Guardian
'Fluid and inventive contemporary bassist'
The Independent
'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



To listen to a track from this album: Jazz Cat Albums

The Observer
Dave Gelly
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.

Jazz Review
Mark Gilbert
January 2003

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.

3 stars (Jazzcat)
John Fordham
Friday October 25, 2002
The Guardian

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.


To listen to a track from this album: Jazz Cat Albums

The Observer
Dave Gelly
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.

Yorkshire Post
Andrew Vine
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.


To listen to a track from this album: Jazz Cat Albums

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        


To listen to a track from this album: Jazz Cat Albums


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'.

Humphrey Lyttelton
November 2006.

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.
March 2007

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.



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,

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. 



'...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 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.

' 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 

'...a fine team effort, the horns providing rich colours and textures with Crosland and Lodder the harmonic and rhythmic glue that holds it all together...a well crafted album that features some superb ensemble playing alongside some excellent solo contributions from six very talented musicians. Crosland's writing is measured and intelligent and the project represents a logical but highly distinctive extension of the Threeway ethos'. Ian Mann,     






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




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.




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




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'.

Chris Parker




...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




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 




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., 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

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.