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Fergus McCreadie: Stream

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Fergus McCreadie: Stream
Scottish pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie and his trio have carved out a distinctive style. They have reached a point where they are immediately recognisable. Many musicians strive to find their musical identity, but this remarkable trio have achieved this quickly. Their blend of Scottish folk music and contemporary jazz has been crafted and developed over their three previous albums, Turas (Self-produced, 2018), Cairn (Edition Records, 2021) and Forest Floor (Edition Records, 2022). With Stream, the natural themes of those albums are continued and reach a high point with McCreadie's nine compositions on the theme of water.

He is joined by his long-time collaborators, bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson. Along the way, they have picked up numerous awards and accolades, including being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Together, they make a redoubtable trio, capable of rocking out and conveying the most delicate of tunes. Back in the olden days, before playlists were a thing, albums were typically listened to in their entirety and the sequence of the tracks was carefully considered. Stream is a throwback to those times. A clear narrative runs through the album and the arrangement of tracks is deliberate, varying length, tone and tempo.

The piano is still an uncommon instrument to find in a folk setting. McCreadie's technical prowess allows him to play parts which would normally be played on a fiddle, whistle or uilleann pipes. In this, he is continuing the work of trailblazing Irish pianist and composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, who fused jazz and traditional music in his arrangements and improvisations on harp tunes and reels (Between Worlds (EMI, 1995) serves as an excellent introduction to his work).

The album opens darkly with "Storm." After an initial crescendo and rumbling drums, there is a calm before the storm breaks through. This is followed by an epic 12 minutes in "The Crossing." After the gentle melody on the piano, the tempo builds and an undercurrent of unease grows. The turmoil of the journey is reflected in heavy, repeating chords before respite arrives in the shape of Bowden's bass solo. There is an improvised section before the gentle melody returns, but Henderson's rock-style drums drive the track back to a frenzy before finally easing.

Not all of the album is that feverish. "Snowcap" has beautiful piano and bass which gently entwine. The brightly optimistic "Sun Pillars" takes a folk tune as a base, leading to a bass solo before McCreadie's improvisation sparkles around the melody. The delightful "Stony Gate" pulses with a folk dance rhythm, with McCreadie's fingers performing their own dance over the keyboards with skilful drumming from Henderson and arco bass from Bowden.

The exhilarating 13 minutes of "Lochan Coire Àrdair" finds the gentle tune build and subside, then build again as the trio combine, creating a bold wall of sound. Having travelled a long way, the water reaches its final destination with "Coastline." This gently beautiful track, with its old-fashioned slow dance melody, provides a marvellous end to the album. The gradual sunset at the end of the day.

McCreadie's speed of hand seems to have increased since his previous albums. While his hands may be looser, Bowden and Henderson are tighter than ever and this close-knit trio have a gift for creating music which corresponds to the visuals of their track titles. This is an album that can take a listener down unpredictable paths, from beautifully sketched moments of Scottish folk music to hard-rocking jazz drama. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Storm; The Crossing; Driftwood; Snowcap; Sun Pillars; Mountain Stream; Stony Gate; Lochan Coire Àrdair; Coastline.

Personnel

Album information

Title: Stream | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Edition Records


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