Benjamin Croft – Far and Distant Things: Album Review

Benjamin Croft releases a stunning musical treat of an album, which quite beautifully brings together jazz, with rock, progressive and classical music.

Release date: 6th August 2021

Label: Ubuntu Music

Format: CD / Vinyl / Digital

Benjamin Croft has produced a hugely enjoyable and beautifully crafted new album that embodies jazz fusion in the very best sense of the term. Melding jazz with strands of rock, progressive, and classical music, to create some fabulous pieces of music, that are like impressionist paintings in the way they evoke a sense of light and movement through the tonal range and textures in the music.

The album was begun pre-pandemic and then refined and finished under the challenging conditions that followed. It has a cast of stellar musicians guesting on the album, pulling off some dramatic solos, including from Benjamin himself.

Overture provides a dramatic, orchestral like introduction, led by the great playing of Helen Vollam who is principal trombone of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There is also Allen Vizzutti on trumpet; a fantastic player, at home in both classical and jazz settings.

The title track, Far and Distant Things, follows and features some fluid, and strikingly rhythmic guitar soloing, from Frank Gambale. His quite wonderful guitar tone reminded this reviewer of Larry Carlton’s guitar playing with Steely Dan circa The Royal Scam. It’s really that good. Benjamin plays a superb, flowing and lyrical synthesiser solo, that has all the playfulness of Chick Corea, in Return to Forever mode, and the soaring qualities of Keith Emerson, as he varies the pattern of the solo, around the changing tempo. 

S&R Video, features the legendary trumpeter, Randy Brecker, who has played with many of the musical greats, such as Frank Zappa and Laura Nyro (check out his solo on Laura’s I Am The Blues, from the Smile album). His playing here, is simply breathtaking, cascading shards of notes, that rise and fall with the rhythmic pulse of the track. Benjamin’s acoustic and electronic keyboards provide a perfect and sympathetic accompaniment, and he pulls another dynamic synthesiser solo out of the bag. A standout track.

Thank You, That’s What I Wanted To Know, featuring the trumpet and flugelhorn playing of Andy Davies, has a lovely pastoral feel, with piano and the brass instruments sympathetically complimenting each other. Benjamins piano solo has an imaginative and romantic quality, with Andy Davies then stepping in with playing that has the expansive quality of a full brass section. 

St Gandalf’s features the stunning drumming of Zappa alumni Chad Wackerman. His effortlessly free flowing drumming, unleashes a torrent of polyrhythmic drum phrases, with Benjamin’s synthesiser playing sounding for all the world like that of George Duke, from Zappa’s classic Roxy era band.

The final track, The Cashectomy, is blessed with some stunning guitar work by Carter Thomas Arrington. There is a ferocity that wouldn’t be out of place on a technical death metal album. In a perfect accompaniment, Flo Moore’s bass playing provides a fantastic melodic underpinning of the track.

This choice of tracks written about here can only provide a snapshot of the fabulous range of intriguing and immersive music to enjoy on this album. The album is also beautifully produced by Benjamin, with the assistance of Henry Thomas. There is a crispness of sound, and an intimate soundstage, that enables the listener to fully experience the quality of playing of all the individuals.  This is without doubt, a must own album for 2021, that pushes forward the creative possibilities of jazz fusion. 

You can watch the  official music video for the title track Far And Distant Things here:

Benjamin Croft: Website / Facebook / Instagram

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