Ben Crosland: Songs Of Solace And Reflection

The bassist offers a richly textured concoction of jazz and classical, realised by a drumless band including Steve Waterman and Alan Barnes

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Ben Crosland’s latest release offers a series of rearrangements of his own compositions, as well as one new original. A modest six-piece ensemble, Crosland and group create richly textured pieces, blending genres with excellent musicianship.

Stylistically, the album sits between classical and jazz, combining orchestral instrumentation with jazz-orientated compositions interlaced with passages of improvisation, and with Crosland’s electric bass juxtaposed against the woodwinds, brass, and strings. It’s captivating, fresh-sounding music of depth and warmth and should appeal to both jazz and classical followers.

The opening piece, Sarah’s Trees, takes a steady harmonic progression with a crisp melody from the woodwinds, before Crosland’s bass lifts the piece with a walking bass-line over which Theo Travis adds a jazz-inspired solo on flute.

The following track conjures a more melancholic atmosphere, a slowly bowed cello melody starting the piece, joined in unison by the woodwinds and then followed by the bass into a measured and searching section with an incisive solo from Steve Waterman.

The sixth track, Rockfield Lullaby, is the one new composition on the album. It’s relaxed and upbeat and features the whole ensemble led by Waterman, Travis and Alan Barnes, the latter playing a bright and punchy clarinet solo.

Songs Of Solace And Reflection is the first album on which Crosland has composed for strings, and the string section stands out throughout. From the plucked two-note harmony on Walkin’ The Cat to the complex, expressive arrangement that opens Song For Dorothy, the string section adds a strikingly different dimension to the jazz compositions.

Discography
Sarah’s Trees; Cowgill Lament; The Gothics; Walkin’ The Cat; Hymn For Peace; Rockfield Lullaby; In Memoriam; Song For Dorothy; Heartland; Peter The Wolf (56.48)
Crosland (b); Theo Travis (f, af); Alan Barnes (cl, bcl); Steve Waterman (t, flh); Clare Bhabra (vn); Deirdre Bencsik (clo). London, 13 and 14 November 2021. 
Jazz Cat Records JCCD119