Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: Benjamin Croft: Far And Distant Things (2021 Ubuntu Music)
By Gary “Uncle G” Brown
The requests started coming in regularly when I first started writing for Jon Kirkman’s Classic Rock Radio (UK), back in April of 2012. I had a reputation by then. Publicists, record companies, and professional musicians requesting if I can say a few words about whatever project they were trying to get publicity for. Hoping for a few good words. I was always flattered to be asked. As a writer, I needed topics to write about. But frankly, I can only do so many write-ups in a day, week, month…you get the picture. It’s not quantity with me, more than it is the quality. It sucks having to blow off people, no matter their intention; exposure. I tried sending messages back saying I frankly don’t have the time. Some of the responses I got could not be reprinted in a family oriented website/magazine. I have since stopped doing that. Now it’s a guessing game; I will or I won’t. And then if I do; surprise!
After seven years of writing for the classic rock crowd, I decided to go off on holiday and see what else I was mentally capable of. As to just have entered my sixth decade of existence, I can paint wide strokes and say, all is well. I wake up and thank God almighty that I’m able to bounce out of bed. I sleep on a $60 air mattress. Akin to sleeping on a cloud, but without suddenly being awakened, and finding out that in real life, it’s impossible to feel secure nodding off on what is in grade-school science class described as;
Clouds: a mass of water drops or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.
Instead of purchasing something better to sleep on, I instead now have my very own vanity email address. More professional byline, having my name/writing name and email address than after my name, having a link to my Twitter or personal Facebook page. Besides, both of those enterprises consider me a business, so have put the breaks on my coverage unless I (cough) pay them money. Lots of it.
One thing I did not consider when activating my archival website email address, was that people would spot it, and then start sending me emails. I have received a few good ones since activation. One day last August, I got a very professional electronic message, asking me if I could take the time and listen to some new instrumental music. That’s right up my alley, so it got my attention. A keyboardist from far away, England. I responded yes and was quickly sent a professional reviewer’s bundle which included the music, and all the basic information I would need if researching and wanting to do a report. Most times, I have to research on my own. Here, it’s all at my fingertips.
“Uncle G” DISCUSSES…Benjamin Croft: Far And Distant Things (2021)
Benjamin Croft has thus far, devoted his life to music. At age seven, he was taking trumpet and piano lessons. When older he attended Leeds College of Music. Keeping busy ever since. This is his second album. Mostly said to be a jazz guy, and going by this record, I would say the reputation, mostly rings true. On Far And Distant Things, there are detours into the land of progressive rock, and then at times, the music is whatever you want it to be. Something that you would perhaps hear in the background of a movie, or inside an elevator on your way to the 55th floor, with a dozen other people. Smooth jazz, for sure. Done extremely well.
The album, Far And Distant Things, Ben’s second solo record, is made up of eleven instrumental compositions. Nothing over seven minutes long. All were composed, arranged, and produced by Mr. Croft. The tracks were recorded last year. Was released commercially, last month (August 2021). I had planned on saying a few words earlier than this, but simply got caught up with other aspects of my life. I do apologize. Yet, I want to be on the bandwagon as officially recommending this album, to whoever will pay attention to what I got to say. The thing is that throughout the time, I received the digital copy and now, I played Ben’s Far And Distance a dozen times or more, from start to finish. It was being rotated on my playlist along with another keyboardist from the UK, Tony Kaye, and his new solo concept album; Tony Kaye – End Of Innocence, which I also like. And before it gets too late and the project isn’t fresh anymore, here I am trying to say a few good words.
The opening track to Benjamin Croft – Far And Distant Things, is rather majestic sounding and is entitled; Overture. The first song to get stuck in my head, after hearing all eleven compositions that make up, this new studio album. Track one, Overture, is just over a minute long and lives up to its title, that’s for sure.
When I write about a new album, I play the whole thing in the order given, start to finish. Numerous times. Sometimes, life interferes and I don’t make it to the end. Next time, usually, I again, start at the beginning. Doing this repeatedly, I end up hearing track one, probably more than any other, as is the case with this. That’s why you need a strong leader. Motivated me to continue listening. Features Allen Vizzutti on trumpet. I love the horns and the overall grand feeling the song Overture gives, and it’s a wonderful lead-in to track two, the title track; Far And Distant Things. As it should be, that so happens to be one of the best songs on this new album. There is a well-done animated video to accompany the track, which I recommend viewing.
We move on to track three in which is called, Brock. And speaking of, I love the names of some of these tunes. And the dedication of the album. Anyway, I digress, Brock is Benjamin on keyboards with three other musicians, and together they can’t sound any tighter. Ben’s keys keep it all together, while the trio accompanying him can do their thing; Gareth Lockrane – Flutes and Piccolo, Flo Moore – Bass Guitar, and Tristan Mailliot on drums. Finishes with the same catchy melody it began with. A sign of solid songwriting. Brock, clocks in at almost 5 minutes. Because of the enjoyment factor, the uptempo song makes the time breeze by, and it’s over before you know it.
Track four is called S.A.D. (Spatial Awareness Disease). The horns, drums, and bass are superb. Sound so well-rehearsed that the band could can could stop on a dime.
Track five has keys that remind me of Bob James or maybe Max Middleton. A cool combo of electronic jazz and prog-rock (more towards the end).
Sometimes I had thoughts that Benjamin Croft – Far And Distance Things, is an album that centers around wind instruments like trumpets, trombones, flutes, flugelhorns, and piccolos. Or a showcase for good rhythm sections (drums and bass). Two drummers found on the eleven 11, and both are players any band rock or jazz group would want; Tristan Mailliot and Laurie Lowe. And two solid bass players; Henry Thomas and Flo Moore. Four guitarists; Frank Gambale, Barry Finnerty, Mike Miller, and Carter Arrington. On the horns and whatnot on what I already mentioned, are several musicians of very high caliber including Randy Brecker. He’s had a very long and successful career recording with some of the best in jazz and rock n’ roll. Seeing his name listed in the credits is one of the reasons why I decided to give Ben’s album, a listen. I enjoyed Mr. Brecker’s playing on Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run album (two songs; Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and The Meeting). Left an impression, on me. I know those songs by heart.
How to make a good song/album? To make it happen here, Ben surrounded himself with talent as gifted as he is. Sounds that way. All involved, equals, and masters of their musicians’ talents. Some of these names I admit to not being that familiar with yet, whose playing would leave any listener impressed. A consistent flow of superior musicianship, with fresh melodies and mostly upbeat – uplifting tempos.
The next song is entitled, S&R Video (featuring Randy Brecker), and is a trumpet lover’s dream. The music fits the playing like an old worn glove. Adult jazz? Sure has a sexy groove. Can I still unhook a bra with one hand? The things I ponder when listening to music such as this and not being distracted by lyrics. A song that would be appropriate for any old fashion smoky club or joint.
Surprised me. Track seven, The War Against Loudness, starts with a hard rock feel to it, and throughout contain some other rocking moments. Features Mike Miller on guitar. The dude can play! Real good fusion here. The drummer, Laurie Lowe, catches on fire, right at the end. I hope she wasn’t hurt.
I don’t want to end up writing a book here. The next two tracks, How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize, and Thank you, That’s What I Wanted To Know, take us to the lite jazz zone, and then before the trip is over, we start rocking again on the way out, with the last two songs found on this, St. Gandalf’s – The Cashectomy. The first of the two reminded me of some of the prog-rock groups of yesterday; U.K…included musician extraordinaire, Eddie Jobson. Lots of toe-tapping, high-energy sounds here.
And thus ends what is a very well-done collection of instrumental numbers.
The stand out for me in regards to Ben’s ‘Far and Distance Things’ is Benjamin, whose playing is simply awesome, holding everything together, from beginning to end. The results are very cohesive. Congrats to him on that. And I especially love the trumpet playing. My Mom who passed away when I was a child, was a professional musician and adored Herb Alpert’s playing. Hearing anyone who knows the instrument well and can play with such warmth and enthusiasm, is always a treat for me.
“Uncle G” RATES…Benjamin Croft – Far And Distant Things (2021 Ubuntu Music)
Using the ever famous 5-star rating system, whereas one star means it blows a wet noodle, to 5 stars in which kind of speaks for itself…that I strongly recommend having it in one’s own personal music collection, “Uncle G” rates Benjamin Croft – Far And Distant Things…5 stars!!! Face it, a lot of depressing shit has been going on in our world, the last couple of years. Important to try to take a break. Collect your thoughts. Take a deep breath. Here is instrumental music that is pleasing to my ears, as it should anyone elses. It doesn’t sound depressing. Capable of lifting spirits. It’s what the doctor ordered.
Uncle G’s Helpful Web-links
Ubuntu Music: www.ubuntumanagementgroup.com/music-2
Benjamin Croft Official Website: www.benjamincroftmusic.com