Perth Concert Hall
13th May 2019
A folk tune, like whisky, is fine straight-up. But it can take a good mixer too. The Fergus McCreadie Trio serve a knockout punch of traditionally-infused jazz that slips in your ear like a good malt goes over the thrapple, then sets your heart alight with the exquisite afterglow of places, times and moods. I could rave on about the awards and accolades that have been heaped on this young man and his group, but that’s all been said before. The point it, this guy is seriously good, like a favourite dram.
The Trio’s first number of the evening was perhaps fittingly titled ‘Ardbeg’, after the Islay Distillery. A simple piano melody from McCreadie drifts effortlessly over David Bowden’s understated bass, with Stephen Henderson’s percussion rolling and glinting throughout, like sea-shimmer. McCreadie has a gift for distilling the essence of landscapes into the mood of a composition. Most of the pieces from the Trio’s debut album, ‘Turas’ (Gaelic for ‘journey’ or ‘tour’) are inspired by places in Scotland that McCreadie has visited and drawn inspiration from. In particular, ‘Hillfoot Glen’ is a funk inflected hustle of a Scottish ‘Harlem River Drive’ with some lighting fast piano arpeggios over a driving snare drum rhythm. The trio are so tight on this one it’s thrilling.
’The Set’ goes back to Trad reel rhythms mixed up in cool jazz. The confidence with which the trio dissect the rhythms then throw out fragments for the ear to catch onto was mesmerising to hear. A few as yet unnamed tracks show that there’s much more licks to come from this trio of precociously talented young men.
I found my personal favourite of the night was a track I’d not heard before – ‘An old friend’ – downtempo, meditative and achingly sincere (there’s a performance of ‘An Old Friend’ at BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 here). The deceptive simplicity of the piece reminds me of Zbigniew Preisner’s ‘Farewell’ from ’Ten Easy Pieces for Piano’. Both pieces make easy that hard task of expressing melancholy without being maudlin: sentiment minus the sentimentalism.
Horsecross Perth’s new Theatre complex was an excellent venue for the trio, with an intimate feel and first class sound engineering. I just hope it’s not too long before the trio return to Perth with what’s sure to be some excellent licks.