Ben Crosland plays the Ray Davies Songbook, 606 Club

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Ben Crosland’s second volume of jazz arrangements of songs by The Kinks (The Ray Davies Songbook Volume II, recently reviewed in Jazz Journal by Roger Farbey) was given its official launch at the London’s 606 on 23 April.

“I’m not sure what a launch gig entails”, Crosland said. “Perhaps we should crack a bottle of champagne”. I didn’t spot any bubbly but the band were certainly in a party mood, out to enjoy an evening of Crosland’s inventive arrangements of the compositions of one of pop music’s true originals. It wasn’t long before a Kinks-aware audience (aka the right demographic) got into the swing of things.

Crosland has injected enough fizz into upbeat numbers like Victoria, I Gotta Move, Sittin’ On My Sofa and Till The End Of The Day to make any champagenois jealous, but his more whimsical adaptations were just as energised – Where Have All The Good Times Gone in waltz time, Ape Man given the calypso treatment (complete with steel drum effect). There were some nice reharmonisations on the more lyrical Davies compositions, such as Autumn Almanac.

Crosland’s accomplished musicians know their way around his charts. The rhythm section of Crosland on bass and Seb De Krom on drums are rock-solid all the time and inventive when called upon, the perfect foundation for the three fiery front men, Dave O’Higgins on reeds, John Etheridge on guitar and Steve Lodder on keys.

They’re all excellent players but for me the stand out was Steve Lodder. It wasn’t just that his solos were inventive, controlled and flawlessly played; as an accompanist he simply never stopped being creative, particularly in the slower numbers in which he wove a never-ending flow of delicate, lace-like phrases around the others’ playing.

The response of the audience was very positive and Crosland looked delighted. The band encored with Sunny Afternoon – a fitting end to the launch of this innovative and worthwhile project. Cheers!

See also Alan John Ainsworth’s profile of Ben Crosland for Jazz Journal.

Ben Crosland Quintet playing the Ray Davies Songbook, Volume II. 606 Club, London, 23rd April 2019