A meeting of master and pupil. Not so long ago, rising pianist Fergus McCreadie was a student on Tommy Smith’s jazz course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.
Launched just ten years ago, the course has produced something of a new wave of Scottish jazz, with many of its twenty-something stars on show at Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival over the last ten days.
McCreadie plays in a number of the scene’s various platforms, notably Graham Costello’s STRATA, which was performing as an expanded unit with string quarter later in the day, along with his own trio.
A finalist in the UK-wide BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year contest this year, McCreadie is starting to make waves well beyond Scotland. And, of course, the RCS course certainly helped him along on his journey.
So, it was fitting that he should perform here with Scotland’s leading jazz musician and the man who is at the forefront of jazz education in the country.
There was no rehearsal for this show; the two just agreed on a setlist of tunes. That’s the beauty of the jazz framework – in the right hands, it can be an exquisite expression of the human condition, as well as a devastating examination of the gamut of emotions we all go through every day.
This was an hour of often remarkable improvisation.
What was really apparent here, and gorgeous to witness, was the space each man gave to the other to develop an idea or feeling, while in unison they found harmony and intimacy.
The knowledgeable, sell-out audience lapped it up, applauding every solo with gusto and rising as one for a standing ovation.
Highlights abounded, but their take on Steve Swallow’s Falling Grace was stunning, McCreadie’s Bach-infused flourishes adding rich textures, while Smith’s playing on Duke Ellington’s The Single Petal of a Rose, was simply sublime.
This was a joy of gig; uplifting, thought-provoking, shimmering. A thing of absolute beauty.
By Allan Boughey