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Fergus McCreadie
Cairn

by Howard Lawes

 

 

 

Fergus McCreadie Cairn

 

A live performance of the title track from Cairn.

 

 

 

 

The place where one was born and brought up is bound to be symbolic and hopefully has many happy memories that one would want to commemorate, but few perhaps would go to the trouble of climbing a 648m high hill to collect some rocks, to have them photographed for an album cover and then to take them back up the hill again. Talking to Fergus McCreadie via Zoom he mentioned that climbing Kings Seat Hill behind his hometown of Dollar in Clackmannanshire is something he has King Seat Hilldone many times and carrying stones to the top of a hill or mountain to add to a cairn is a Scottish tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Fergus benefitted from a school education in Dollar which provided the opportunity to experience a wide range of music from pipe band through chamber music to jazz before he went to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and the jazz department headed by the indomitable Tommy Smith.  While still at RCS Fergus formed his piano trio with David Bowden on bass and Stephen Henderson on drums, two musicians who were already making waves as part of the award winning Glasgow band Square One.  McCreadie's trio went on to win the Peter Whittingham Award a year later in 2016 providing the wherewithal to produce their first album Turas (meaning 'Journey' in Gaelic). Fergus was also a runner-up in the BBC Young Jazz Musician Competition of 2018 and this UK wide exposure on the TV programme surely raised his profile and brought Turas to the attention of a wider public. In 2019, Turas won 'Best Album' at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

Fergus McCreadie's second album has the title Cairn and as alluded to above, maintains the strong links which he feels to his heritage. The title track is a joyful piece, and could be a celebratory metaphor for the climb that Fergus has undertaken to reach this point in his musical career - which by any standard has been rapid and spectacular.  His achievements are already legion, perhaps exemplified by his performance streamed on Scotland House Sessions (click here - approx 1 hour 10 minutes), a series of concerts which together with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, introduces students and alumni from Scotland’s national conservatoire to audiences in the UK and around the world. He admits to enjoying the long hours of practice that are required to perform at this level and demonstrates the same sort of application, technique and ability that defined some of his heroes such as Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans and Brad Meldhau. When it comes to composition, Fergus says that he tends to create the music first before deciding on a title, an artistic process whereby ideas coalesce into something worthy before the name is assigned. It is surely to be expected that a musician whose roots are so firmly based in Scotland and Scottish culture will compose music that hints at those elements.

Other stand-out tracks on the album include North, music to tramp over the hills to, slow and purposeful, while Jig is a riotous piece, loosely based on a ceilidh dance with elements of both folk and rock music. 

 

A live performance of Jig filmed for Sofar Glasgow early in 2020.

 

 

 

The Stones of Brodgar, named after an iconic stone circle on Orkney, has a lilting melody, also available separately as a song with Luca Manning. This recording has a thoughtful solo from David Bowden and evokes the age and romance associated with such monoliths; while the melody of An Old Friend is the sort of tune that Scottish bands seem do so well, bringing a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye and conjuring up all the romance and history associated with a country and culture that clearly impacts its people on a grand scale.

 

Here is a video recorded in 2019 of Fergus and vocalist Luca Manning with The Stones Of Bodegar

 

 

 

 

There are many definitions of jazz. Most emphasize syncopation, improvisation and rhythm and all agree that it originated within the African-American communities of the southern USA, and as such is a unique combination which some regard as the pre-Fergus McCreadieeminent, indigenous artform of the USA.  Fergus McCreadie's jazz is unashamedly Scottish jazz and the inspiration he feels when composing comes not from New Orleans or Chicago but Clackmannanshire or Glasgow.  McCreadie also emphasises how he and other aspiring musicians were nurtured at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, highlighting the importance of a creative community providing varied opportunities for expression and performance.

This is evidenced by his work with other bands such as Graham Costello's Strata - described as "playing music fusing jazz, rock, and classical minimalism"; Matt Carmichael's Quartet "blending folk and jazz influences organically into one personal style"; Cort Alto featuring nu-jazz, neo-soul, hip-hop, breakbeat, ragga, spoken word and scat, and in accompanying Luca Manning whose style and vocals was one of the stand-out performances of this year's London Jazz Festival.  As well as jazz, Fergus retains a love of classical music, in particular Chopin and having witnessed the success of Brad Meldhau's After Bach he continues to practice Chopin's famous and innovative preludes with a view to perhaps releasing a recording at some point.

It seems remarkable that Fergus McCreadie, still in his early twenties, has achieved so much so quickly but this will come as no surprise to John McGongle, Director of Music at Dollar Academy when McCreadie was still a student there who said “Fergus is a stunning performer – and this is not a term I use loosely. He simply has to be heard to be believed.”

 

Cairn is due for release on the Edition label on 29th January 2021.
Click here for details and samples when they are available.
Click here
for Fergus McCreadie's website.

 

Fergus McCreadie trio

 

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Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

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