By William Marshall
The new series of gigs launched by jazz scene mover-and-shaker Ben Crosland drew a good-sized audience to The Keys for a night of hard swinging music featuring front-liners Steve Waterman on trumpet and flugel and Dave O’Higgins on tenor sax.
Crosland himself backed up on bass guitar – playing with restrained muscularity - and the other members of his Trio were the eloquent keyboardist Paul Kilvington and drummer Dave Tyas, who might just qualify for the “veteran” tag, but has lost none of his energy and resourcefulness behind the kit.
It was interesting to note the sheer speed of his response to ideas from the soloists. When trumpet or sax played triplets, for example, Tyas seemed to pick up and echo this almost instantaneously.
The repertoire for the night consisted largely of post-bop numbers composed or arranged by canonic figures such as Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Benny Golson. But the gig really took off three numbers in with a Latinised and funky version of Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So.
This was one of the performances of the night, introduced by a rolling bass riff and including a sax solo from O’Higgins that culminated in the high velocity playing he is noted for.
Another standout number was a Steve Waterman composition, the modal Destination Unknown, which became a fascinatingly multi-episodic performance. After a sheets-of-sound sax solo there was an impressionistic drum interlude over a pedal bass and a mesmerising coda from the trumpeter, in which Waterman used circular breathing to execute a long, repetitive cadenza that had overtones of Phillip Glass.
The gig included two ballads – I Fall in Love Too Easily featured trumpeter Waterman and When Sunny Gets Blue was a solo vehicle for O’Higgins that begun beguilingly as a duo for sax and bass. A willingness to vary the texture at various points was one of the impressive aspects of the evening.
The next Jazz at the Keys is on Saturday, March 5, when the Ben Crosland Trio will be joined by reedsman Alan Barnes.