If I’d reviewed this last year, it would have easily made the best-of list.

Jazz Cat: JCCD119

Theo Travis: flute, alto flute; Alan Barnes: clarinet, bass clarinet; Steve Waterman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Clare Bhabra: violin; Deibre Bencsik: ‘cello; Ben Crosland: bass

Recorded 13th and 14th November 2021 by Andrew Tulloch at Livingstone Studios, London.

I very much enjoyed Crosland’s ‘Solway Stories’ album (naming it as one of my albums of the year for 2021). On this outing, he continues to create music that is at once melancholy and inspiring, mournful and joyful. While Solway Stories mined a personal history, this new set of tunes reaches out to many experiences of loss.

In the liner notes, Crosland speaks of the difficulties that the covid-19 lockdown brought him and how music was a consolation. While this explains his take on the album’s title, it also expresses his desire (in which he is completely successful) to provide solace and space for reflection to the listener.

The ways in which his compositions respond to the different instruments in the band, particularly with the introduction of violin and ‘cello to complement the brass and the ever-impressive Alan Barnes on clarinet, makes for a beautifully balanced blend of tones and textures.

While only one tune on the album has not been previously recorded, Crosland has re-arranged the others to take advantage of the sonorities of the instruments and to allow Crosland to explore his arranging skills.

This combines to produce tunes that feel vibrant and fresh. He writes that his hope is for tunes that ‘should be consoling and comforting in nature, but with a lightness that might cheer…’ While each tune achieves this, the lightness belies a clear and considered plan and careful structuring. It is often the case that the best designed things in our everyday lives get taken from granted because they so perfectly fit their purpose.

There might be danger that the perfection of these tunes could become overlooked because they so ideally fit their purpose. I have seen several very positive critical reviews of the album and would urge the reader to discover its joys for themselves. If I’d reviewed this last year, it would have easily made the best-of list.

Reviewed by Chris Baber