Ben Crosland began playing the drums at the age of thirteen, taking up the guitar a year later: he was much influenced by the fertile British pop music scene of the ’60’s. At school, he studied with a remarkable teacher called Victor Brook ( Bach in German!). Brook taught Ben to read music on the guitar, even though he, Brook, did not play the instrument, and inspired Ben by writing out, for example, guitar accompaniments for Handel Flute Sonatas in chord symbols.
During the late ’60’s, Ben began, in his listening, to bridge the gap between rock and jazz, focusing on such artists as Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago Transit Authority and Jose Feliciano, as well as developing an interest in the contemporary British jazz scene: at that time, rock blues and jazz were very close, with artists such as Jack Bruce John Mayall and Chris Spedding working and recording regularly with musicians such as Art Themen Henry Lowther Alan Skidmore and Dick Heckstall-Smith. Ben’s first jazz-playing experience occurred in 1969 when he began to attend the regular sessions organised by Rod Marshall at his pub,the Anchor Inn in Brighouse,Yorkshire. Ben joined the Anchor Big Band on guitar and worked in the band for several months, performing in a concert featuring Harold Mc.Nair,the internationally known alto saxophonist and flautist,as guest soloist.
Ben had begun song-writing in his ‘teens and in 1972, he wrote a collection of songs for an exhibition staged at Woburn Abbey for the Huddersfield-based inventor, Wilfred Makepiece Lunn (of B.B.C. Television ‘Vision On’ fame).At Cambridge University, Crosland combined his studies with continued involvement in contemporary rock, folk and jazz : Roger Dean was at that time a fellow student at Corpus Christi College. During the ’70’s, Ben began to develop his interest in composition and wrote several pieces which were performed in concert by the classical guitarist, James Mc.Bride.
In the early ’80’s, Ben took up the electric bass and turned seriously to jazz. He studied with Jeff Clyne, one of Britain’s finest bass players, for several years at the Wavendon Summer Jazz Course: other students attending his first course in 1982 included Iain Ballamy and Nikki Isles. Ben later became a bass tutor on the Jazz Course for five years: amongst his students was Jeremy Brown, now a highly-regarded bassist.
In 1984, Ben began to work with the internationally-recognised guitarist and writer, Adrian Ingram,also based in Huddersfield. They formed a trio with pianist Philip Honnor called Room Service which worked across Yorkshire: the group also comprised the nucleus of a house rhythm section supporting leading artists such as Dick Morrissey Bobby Wellins and Louis Stewart in Huddersfield for several years.
During the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, Ben worked with leading regionally-based musicians across the North of England in both regular groups and pick-up bands : these musicians included Mike Walker Nikki Isles Peter Fairclough Jon Taylor Rod Mason and Peter Maguire. He became a busy sideman playing regularly with visiting Americans including Ken Peplowski Harry Allen Spike Robinson George Masso and Bill Berry.
In 1990, he formed his Quintet. The original line-up comprised Ben on bass, Rod Mason (saxophones) Julian Longbottom (trombone) Adrian Ingram (guitar) and Robert Howard (drums). Over the years, the band played major venues across the North of England and North Wales and performed in festivals at Grimsby Wigan Llangollen Manchester and Marsden, amongst others. The Quintet also toured in Holland and Belgium,including several nights at the legendary Bierodrome,the Brussels jazzclub presided over by the redoubtable Pol Leanders. The band also appeared in concert at the Stables at Wavendon.
Many leading musicians appeared as guests with the Quintet including Jean Toussaint Peter King Jim Mullen Gerard Presencer and Guy Barker. The Quintet increasingly became a vehicle for Ben’s interest in composition: a regular playing association with Alan Skidmore, which began in 1992, led to the band touring with Skidmore and recording an album with him.The album, entitled ‘The Northern Run’, contains several Crosland originals and was released in 1995 to critical acclaim.
The Quintet broadcast several times on B.B.C. Radio 2’s ‘Jazz Parade’ and ‘The Radio 2 Arts Programme’ and was featured on Humphrey Lyttelton’s radio programme.
In 1998, the Quintet recorded an album of Ben’s compositions with leading U.K. trumpeter Steve Waterman entitled ‘A Dales Day’. This record was also well received by the critics – ‘… a fine album by a talented team’ Jazz Journal International ‘Highly melodic’ Jazz U.K.- and following its release in September 1998, the Quintet featured the album on a highly successful Jazz Action Tour with Waterman in October 1998. The final line-up of the Quintet comprised Ben on bass, Rod Mason (saxophones) Mike Hall (saxophones) Steve Buckley (guitar) and Dave Tyas (drums).
2000 marked the 10th anniversary of the Quintet’s formation and to celebrate the event, Ben composed a new set of pieces entitled ‘Echoes in the Valley’ which he arranged for octet. To the Quintet, Ben added three long-standing collaborators, Alan Skidmore, Mark Nightingale and Steve Waterman. The pieces, together with two of Ben’s compositions arranged by John Warren, were performed to enthusiastic audiences during a well received Jazz Services Tour and later recorded by the Octet. The resulting album, ‘Echoes in the Valley’, received excellent reviews. The Octet performed as a regular band for three years.
In December 2000, Ben formed his first Quartet featuring Steve Waterman and including two of the finest young players on the Manchester scene, Stuart McCallum on guitar and Dave Walsh on drums. The Quartet has recorded two albums, ‘Heartland’ and ‘Last Flight Out’, to critical acclaim, has toured nationally with Jazz Services’ support and has performed in festivals at Manchester,Swanage, Hawick and Chester
Ben formed a new band, Threeway, featuring Steve Lodder and Steve Waterman in 2004. This trio approaches improvisation in a subtle manner, generating intensity through group interplay. It is a group best suited to the concert hall. The group’s debut album ‘ Conversations’ was featured in April 2006 on BBC Radio 3 Jazz Line Up.
In 2006 Ben formed his new quartet and regular working band featuring Rod Mason on Saxophones, Jamil Sheriff on Piano, and Dave Tyas on Drums.
Ben has continued to work in other projects : in 1996, he composed and recorded a number of pieces in a quartet setting with Jim Mullen and Adrian Ingram on guitar and Eryl Roberts on drums . The record, entitled ‘Spread the Word’, again found favour with the critics. Crosland was a member of the Rod Mason Quartet, featuring Steve Lodder for several years. He is a member of the Rod Mason/Jim Mullen Quartet and tours annually, with Dave Tyas, as a member of John Etheridge’s Trio North. In addition to playing, he presents jazz on radio and in concert.