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Ben Crosland Quintet ‘Solway Stories’ (Jazz Cat Records - JCCD 118)


Following on from 2 CDs of his arrangements of Ray Davies compositions, composer,

arranger and bass guitarist Ben Crosland has just released a new collection of original material inspired by the landscape and history of Scotland’s Solway Firth.

Solway Stories was recorded in between lock-downs in 2020, and joining Ben for this outing are long time collaborators Steve Lodder on keyboards and Steve Waterman on trumpet, alongside Chris Allard on guitar and Dylan Howe on drums who are both making their first appearances on record with the quintet.

In his liner notes Ben makes it clear that Solway Stories is a deeply personal album, dedicated to the memory of his mother with whom he had made his first trip to the Solway Firth in the late 1980s.

The album gets off to a lively start with Driving North which bubbles with the excitement and anticipation of a journey to a favourite destination while Dylan Howe’s brushwork hints at earlier journeys that would have been made by others on steam trains.

One might expect that a record inspired by Scotland might be full of reels and local folk music, but this isn’t the case. These are all original tunes, many of which are named after local towns and villages like Powfoot, Islesteps and Beeswing whilst others, such as Dulce Cor (Every Step Of The Way) are more steeped in the area’s history and I Do is a direct reference to the Smithy at Gretna Green, the scene of many an elopement over the years. Irrespective of mood and tempo it is patently obvious that the composer has a very deep and meaningful relationship with his subject.

As ever with Ben’s albums, this one is chock full of great melodies all of which swing, regardless of tempo. The playing and soloing throughout is of an exceptionally high standard with special mention going to Steve Lodder and Chris Allard for outstanding performances.

All in all Solway Stories’12 tracks are a very fine addition to Ben’s catalogue, combining lyrical melodies (Dulce Cor and Carsethorn) with the out and out funkiness of tracks such as Powfoot and A Lil’ Sark Funk. And any album which closes with a track called The Devil’s Porridge has got to be a winner in my book!

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