Ben Crosland: Songs of Solace and Reflection review – a spontaneous lockdown reverie

Albums recorded, prepared or merely dreamed up in the days of lockdown are still appearing. Like this one, they often differ in some way from the the artist’s previous work. Bassist and composer Ben Crosland is probably best known for his agile and witty jazz quintet treatment of the Ray Davies songbook. The tone is more subdued this time. The album’s 10 tracks suit the title well, most of them being musical impressions of people and places Crosland recalls and holds dear. There are only six musicians here, including Crosland on electric bass, but he always manages to get the best and to display their talents to advantage. The three soloists – Theo Travis (flute), Steve Waterman (trumpet) and Alan Barnes (clarinet) – all come up with some really gripping performances.

There’s no way of preparing for something like this, calling as it does for instant and sustained inventiveness. The remaining two players are Clare Bhabra and Deirdre Bencsik, violin and cello respectively. This is the first time Crosland has written for strings and, except for one pleasant passage of pizzicato, they have little chance to shine. Work in progress?