THIS was one of those happy occasions where the musicians got such a kick out of playing together that the audience was swept along with them.
Ordinarily, the Ben Crosland Quartet would have been enough for a splendid evening of jazz, but we also had the added bonus of tenor sax player Alan Skidmore’s presence.
Described as a heavyweight of UK and European jazz, Alan has a distinguished history and his abilities seem undiminished by the passage of time. He begins his solos with warmth and swing, playing with magisterial authority. Gradually increasing the intensity of emotion, he then includes honks, whoops, squeals and the repetition of note clusters at finger-breaking speed. These effects seem to be obligatory for many sax players; those who eschew them are rare exceptions.
It must take a superbly accomplished and confident saxophonist to agree to share a stage with someone with a reputation as large as Alan’s. We had just such a one in Rod Mason, nicknamed the Room Darkener by Alan. Rod towers above everyone like Hagrid among Hogwarts pupils. As a saxophonist Rod is as good as you’ll get. He was outstanding throughout, teeming with ideas whether on soprano, alto or tenor.
Next in altitude was Ben Crosland, who perched on a tall stool. With his shaved head and amiable face, he presided over events like a benign Buddha. His work on fretless bass provided a rhythmic anchor whilst his solos demonstrated great skill.
The brilliant pianist Paul Kilvington was the musician closest to the ground as, although rising from the stool in his enthusiasm, he crouched very low over the keyboard. In this uncomfortable looking stance he played wonderfully original music. Sometimes he was delicate or could drive powerfully. Often he created counter-rhythms within his solos but above all he conjured a seemingly endless stream of unpredictable invention.
Dave Tyas, mopping his face with a towel that was the exact shade of red to match his drum kit, proved himself the complete artist; driving in ensemble work, sparkling in four-bar exchanges and able to make creative thunder when called for.
This band gave us a fresh repertoire played with ebullient zest. Appropriately for a seaside venue, the audience engulfed them in a tidal wave of applause.