There’s a lot going on now in the world of Scottish, and perhaps more specifically Glaswegian, jazz. Those of you who keep an eye on it may notice names like Fergus McCreadie, Graham Costello or Mark Hendry appearing time and time again across a multitude of new bands and collectives.
This network of artists supporting one another, working together and dabbling in the unique sounds of each other is fostering a creative ecosystem that makes them individually more interesting. Although I first saw Fergus McCreadie playing in Graham Costello’s Strata, getting to see the Fergus McCreadie Trio was exciting for its own reasons. Not only is it a chance to hear the creative voice of McCreadie himself but seeing the other members of the band through him is a chance to discover more artists in this tight-knit community.
The big difference between McCreadie’s music and that of many of his peers is the significant folk influences that come throughout the performances. McCreadie himself admits that many of his pieces are written about his experiences exploring Scottish countryside and that feeling of evoking places that are very specifically Scottish is quite clear. One of the first pieces played at the show was The Stones of Brodgar, a currently unrecorded song about the Neolithic standing stones on the Orkney Islands. The sincere appreciation for these places is clear in the work and it’s sometimes a little strange to listen to a jazz piece that makes you somehow feel… patriotic.
“It just felt like everyone was very connected in the room.”
The folk aspects of the performance are not the heart of the show as the whole concert is carried along with a crisp, clean jazz sound that is pulled off by performers who know one another and are comfortable playing together. McCreadie, and the drummer Steven Henderson, keep an eye on one another for cues as they flow in and out of improvised sections. The trio are clearly performers at the height of their game and know the songs they’re playing intimately.
The pieces themselves have a lot of ebb and flow to them. Starting the show with deliberately slower songs set a tone that would later be contrasted throughout the show. Frankly, all of the pieces have a thoughtful pace in their beginnings. McCreadie has a habit of creating crescendos that get pulled out from under you like lurching off the edge of a cliff, only to be ever so slowly built back up again. The result is music that always keeps you on your toes and never lets you feel secure in what’s about to happen.
Over the course of the 90-minute show, the trio goes through most of the songs from their debut album Turas. Intermittently pausing to speak to the audience about the meaning of what they played and give a little insight into the process of creating them. This, of course, isn’t uncommon for artists to do but there is a sincerity that comes with MCcCreadie that is quite refreshing. He speaks about his influences from his time at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or the importance of the jazz festival to him and many other performers. I caught up with him after the show to ask him what it was like to be back at the festival and what it means to him:
“For our Trio it’s almost like a second home for us because it was only our second gig that was at the Edinburgh Jazz And Blues Festival and it felt like that’s what kicked us off in a way. So, to be here for a fifth time is very special for us… [today] the energy in the room was great and the audience was super quiet in the quiet bits but when it came to the applause it was good. It just felt like everyone was very connected in the room.”
The Fergus McCreadie Trio represents a part of a far larger whole. McCreadie himself is part of various different bands and collectives as are the other members of the band and they are all more than worth your time. Whether you see McCreadie’s Trio or Graham Costello’s Strata or Square One with Stephen Henderson, the Glasgow jazz “thing” that’s happening right now is something that no one who likes jazz should sleep on.
By John Gillespie