Ben Crosland Quintet
The Ray Davies Songbook
16 Frederick Street, Birmingham, B1 3HE
19th January 2018
I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Ben Crosland’s CD tribute to Ray Davies upon it’s release some time ago. I confess to putting it to one side, thinking that jazz and Ray Davies might make odd bed fellows. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I put the disk on to play and was hooked from the opening track. I find that there are often just one or two worthwhile tracks on a recording with the remainder being somewhat mediocre. However, this album grabs and holds the attention from beginning to end. I’ve enjoyed playing the album regularly recently and so was eagerly anticipating the appearance of the Ben Crosland Quintet playing for Birmingham Jazz. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The Quintet’s line-up was slightly different from that on the album with Theo Travis replacing Dave O’Higgins and Dylan Howe in for Sebastiaan De Krom behind the drums. These changes making the event even more mouth-watering if anything. These Ray Davies classic songs have been so cleverly arranged by Ben Crosland that, listening with eyes shut, one could almost imagine listening to the album.
Indeed, for me, it is the way that the arrangements have been etched that made the project such a success. I’m clearly not alone in thinking this as Ben told me that the album has been his most commercially successful to date, clearly appealing to both Ray Davies fans and jazz followers in equal measure. The near capacity audience at 1000 Trades confirmed this.
I have stressed the musical arrangements which are at the heart of the music but we must not ignore the solo contributions of these master musicians. It was particularly interesting to see one half of the Soft Machine line-up in a new context. Travis and guitarist John Etheridge proved to be the most perfect of sparring partners, clearly comfortable in each other’s company as one would expect considering their shared musical history.
Steve Lodder on piano and keyboards never fails to impress me and Ben Crosland deserves credit for not only putting the band together, but coming up with such fine variations on the Davies songbook and contributing fine understated solos and adding texture to the group sound.
Many Ray Davies favourites were featured throughout the evening including ‘All Day and All of the Night’, ‘Waterloo Sunset’, ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ all of which are included on the album together with other, perhaps lesser-known songs. There is surely enough material for a second album. That would surely be another musical treat.
Although the year has only just started, this gig will surely be a firm contender for ‘gig of the year’ and would certainly feature in my list. In the meantime, there is much more great music to come during the year from the people at Birmingham Jazz. Keep up-to-date at birminghamjazz.co.uk
To find out what Ben Crosland has in store for you and to purchase the album go to www.jazz-cat.com
In summary Ben and the guys treated the audience to a consistently swinging evening of music which sent everyone home with smiles on their faces which is surely what music-making is all about.