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Young jazz musician Fergus McCreadie returns to Elgin with his trio to play songs from his first album and preview his newly-recorded second

By Margaret Chrystall

IT is maybe appropriate that award-winning Scottish jazz pianist and compose Fergus McCreadie is travelling through the landscape with the rest of his trio as he talks to you about all things jazz – including debut album Turas – which means ‘journey’.

The album has won two important awards and was also shortlisted for the Scottish Album Of the Year, almost unheard of for a jazz album.

Jazz pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie.
Jazz pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie.

Fergus’s music effortlessly fuses jazz and Scottish traditional ‘inflections’, as one journalist put it. How did he evolve his own signature sound in his music?

“That’s quite a hard question, I don’t know if there is a specific answer to that question I think it kind of just happened!

“Before I went to college I very much wanted to be a straight ahead normal jazz musician. I didn’t even want to play original music I just wanted to play standards [old classic jazz tracks and song].

“But as I got older and started letting myself experience the music – and there is so much music happening at RCS (the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) – buying more and more music and listening to more and more stuff that wasn’t jazz, I started allowing myself to do stuff that felt a bit more real to my heart.

“And that was the music that emerged, if that makes sense.”

The Fergus McCreadie Trio.
The Fergus McCreadie Trio.

Fergus’s fellow trio players are, David Bowden on double bass, winner of Young Scottish jazz musician of the year in 2017 and drummer Stephen Henderson, the Jazzwise magazine one to watch 2018.

And they are coming up to Elgin with him for this Sunday’s gig.

Fergus is orginally from Jamestown, beside Strathpeffer and though he left when a toddler for Dollar and the beauty of the surrounding Ochil Hills, he confesses he still”has a bit of a thing for it” though no family connections remain there.

He is an enthusiastic ambassador for jazz – as if his playing and music itself aren’t engaging enough.

And he is quick to talk up the unique aspects of hearing live jazz.

“With jazz – and I think this is more so than with any other music – you get something you will never really hear again when you go to a jazz gig unless it’s recorded obviously.

“And I think that is what makes it such a special evergreen music, it’s that it is always fresh and it is always exciting and it always new.”

As we talk about the spontaneous powers of jazz and improv and playing with other musicians, he is trying to describe that almost extra-sensory ability to tune into each other, as the trio do.

“Psychic isn’t really that far off it, I would say,” Fergus commented. “We have been playing for about five years I would say, and after that it is like having really old friends.

“You get really good at knowing what they are going to say and it is the same musically. Even though I wouldn’t say I could predict things, but I can feel the direction of their musicality – and it’s a nice thing to have.

The Fergus McCreadie play live in Elgin's St Giles.
The Fergus McCreadie play live in Elgin's St Giles.

When the trio play Elgin, their set will include the music of Turas as well as new music they will be previewing from their second album which they recorded in January, and which has been funded by Creative Scotland and is likely to be out early next year.

Fergus said: “I think it is a natural development from where we were before and where we are now and I feel it captures that nicely.”

I wondered if there was a renewed interest in listening to jazz and going to the gigs from a younger generation?

"There may be a bit of a delay, but the audiences are definitely catching up with it as well.

"Gigs are being better attended and more Glasgow jazz is being put on at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival which is the biggest festival.

"You still see an older generation at these gigs – and it kind of varies gig to gig depending on the music.

"But I was doing a gig last week with a band called Corto Alto which is a more modern, fusion band – and it was almost entirely young people there. So it varies, but something is happening."

And it seems to be a supportive environment to work in too, with the RCS helping to create that environment, Fergus agreed.

"There is a real community sense.

"People play in each other’s bands and pretty much everyone came through the Conservatoire as well and that has definitely helped.

"We are all good friends and everyone gets on and – everyone is there to help each other out. It's definitely true that everyone eggs each other on a bit too."

The young musician is often mentioned as a lynchpin of a new generation of jazz musicians in Scotland.

"I would definitely say that in Glasgow right now it does feel very exciting because there are a lot of really exciting jazz musicians my age coming up and there are a lot of new bands and lots of amazing, innovative new music being created.

"So musically I can say for certain this is a really exciting time in Scottish jazz.

"There is just a lot of musical stuff happening, more so than I have ever known."

The Fergus McCreadie Trio plays St Giles Church, Elgin, on Saturday, February 29.

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