Bassist Ferg Ireland is a young London lion whose recent credits include pianist Ashley Henry's Beautiful Vinyl Hunter (Sony, 2019) and tenor saxophonist Alex Hitchcock's AUB (Edition, 2020), stonking albums both.
On his own-name debut album, Ireland is joined by drummer James Maddren, who is probably best known for his work with the piano-less trio led by tenor saxophonist Josephine Davies, beloved of this parish. Completing the trio is alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, the lineup's relative elder statesman, who emerged in 2007 with the band Empirical.
The album is a joy from the get go. Two of the tracks, "Stay Broke" and "Confession," were previously released as a 12" vinyl EP. At the time, Ireland described them as possessing "deep, dark and raw vibes." They do and they are a delight. But the music on Ferg Ireland Trio is more than just down and dirty. Its defining quality is playfulness, something more usually associated with female-led bands, such as those of saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trumpeter Laura Jurd, but one that raises the spirits from which ever gender direction it comes.
Ireland's tunesall seven on the album were written by himcover a wide emotional spectrum. "When You Know" is an elegiac ballad with faint echoes of Kurt Weill, which are faintly heard, too, in the happy-go-lucky closer, "Fruit Fly." The Mel in "Mel's Mood" sounds like he or she is a lot of fun, as does whoever has those eponymous "Lips." And the aforementioned opener, "Stay Broke," is double-dipped deep, dark and raw. The tunes are not necessarily ones that you would whistle, they are too asymmetrical to lend themselves to that, but they are pithy and bursting with character.
The Ferg Ireland Trio sounds, in the best way, as though it has embarked on the material with the minimum of rehearsal, staying fresh and in the moment for forty-eight exuberant minutes. It will likely have you dancing in your head.
Stay Broke; Ludwick Blues; Mel’s Mood; When You Know; Lips; Confession; Fruit Fly.
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