Another new name to me: Benjamin Croft. That is one of the nice things with doing occasional reviews for this magazine: one gets to discover new stuff (and sometimes re-discover others). Benjamin Croft is a British keyboard player. His bio tells me that he began piano and trumpet lessons at the age of seven. Later he studied at Leeds College of Music. After graduating he completed several contracts on international cruise lines and moved to the United States. During this period, he toured and worked with artists as diverse as Belinda Carlisle, Leslie Garrett, The Temptations, and the Platters. In 2012, Croft moved back to the United Kingdom and settled in London. Here he became a regular performer at jazz clubs like Ronnie Scott's Jazz Café and Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club. He also performed in the West End Show Straight From the Heart and on TV shows such as The Voice and Britain's Got Talent. Besides, he worked as a session musician, composer and arranger on several projects. In 2018, he recorded on Beautiful South founder Dave Hemingway's latest project Sunbirds.
Far And Distant Things is his second solo album after his debut 10 Reasons To... (released 2019 on 33Jazz Records) which I have not heard (yet). For his new album he managed to attract some famous musicians along with some UK-musicians that Croft has worked with before. What strikes me at a glance on the track list of this new CD are some quite funny song titles. Let's have a listen.
The CD opens with the orchestrated Overture in which I hear a vague reference to the modern classical work of Frank Zappa. After this, the title track Far And Distant Things brings another Frank, namely Australian guitarist Frank Gambale, in a leading spot. There is an awesome keyboard solo by Croft from around 4 minutes which then leads into a super nice groovy section.
Brock is a great example of forward driving orchestrated jazz-rock, while the piece S.A.D., led by Allen Vizzutti's trumpet, takes us towards the realms of more common jazz.
With Tudor Job Agency we get another guitar dominated piece. On this, we hear guitarist Barry Finnerty, a name previously unknown to me, but he is a talented player. Croft treats us to a very tasty solo on electric piano. I love that pearly sound. There is also a brief bass solo by Flo Moore. She plays bass on most tracks of the album (on the other four we hear Henry Thomas). Towards the end there is some busy work on the drums battling with the other instruments which then evaporates and fades out.
S&R Video opens dreamy with trumpets by legendary jazz musician Randy Brecker. There is another great synth solo, then back to dreamy music with a romantic trumpet in the lead, calm percussion and piano along with very quiet bass. The War Against Loudness brings more awesome soloing on the synths alternated with guitars by Mike Miller.
How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize is one of my favourite tracks. First, because I love the title. Secondly through the way the piece is composed and arranged with a relaxed groove over which piano and synthesizers are layered. Then suddenly trumpet (Andy Davies) comes into the lead. The final 2 minutes take quite a different direction with the bass picking up pace and keyboards and trumpet soloing against each other into a fade-out.
Davies also plays on the next track, Thank You, That's What I Wanted To Know..., which is quite dreamy.
The short St. Gandalf's was recorded in a trio line up of Croft, bass player Flo Moore and legendary jazz drummer Chad Wackerman. It's a fast-paced piece of jazz-rock where Croft really gets to shine on a variety of keyboards and synths while the rhythm section lays a varied base. Although the track isn't even two minutes long there is so much happening here that it feels much longer!
The album closes with the rocky track The Cashectomy (hilarious wordplay) led by guitar player Carter Arrington. Good jazz-rock that may appeal to people who like the work of Allan Holdsworth and the likes.
As a whole this disc is perhaps a bit too much jazz oriented for the average reader of Background Magazine, but I like this disc a lot.
***+ Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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