Fergus McCreadie Trio @ The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, 19 Apr

Scottish jazz-folk virtuoso Fergus McCreadie launches his new album Stream with a spellbinding concert in Edinburgh

Live Review by Zoë White | 23 Apr 2024
  • Fergus McCreadie Trio

When Fergus McCreadie steps out into the soft, golden light that floods the stage of the Queen’s Hall, ready to introduce the audience to his new LP Stream, you might expect him to take his seat at the piano and launch wordlessly into the deep, swirling currents of this tumultuous album. But instead, he sits facing the audience, leaning forward as if to speak candidly and familiarly, and begins by introducing his bandmates, bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson.

Throughout the evening the Glasgow-based pianist talks conversationally about his music which intertwines the restless, rippling melodies of Scottish traditional folk with glorious, sweeping jazz. There’s an endearing contrast between his down-to-earth anecdotes about hill walks, mountain streams and Scottish weather, and the hypnotic beauty of the music itself. 

Preceding McCreadie’s trio is a set of invigorating jigs and reels by cellist Juliette Lemoine and Chris Amer, who plays a small, asymmetrical tenor guitar he built himself. Its head split down the middle like a Picasso painting, the guitar sprinkles its bright, tingling notes lightly over Lemoine’s cello, whose deep, raw tone carves out the melodies, where a fiddle could only pencil them.

The grand piano, double bass and drum kit glitter eagerly in the lustrous stage lights, and the crowd are hushed the instant McCreadie and co walk on. But the polite silence is lifted into spiritual reverie when McCreadie turns to the piano for album opener Storm and a flurry of piano notes and showering cymbals flood the room like a revelation. 

As McCreadie explains, Stream – which follows the 2022 SAY Award-winning, Mercury-nominated Forest Floor – draws inspiration from water. From the opening tempest, the record flows through seething seas and surging rivers towards the calmer glistening streams and snowy peaks of latter tracks. Tonight the trio let pieces bleed into one another and open up space for the unpredictable. Bowden and Henderson get a solo each; the former sculptural and considered, the latter fervent and tense. 

From the turbulent tug and swell of Storm, the trio tumble straight into the uneasy, churning waters of The Crossing. At times McCreadie is jumping in his seat to hammer out the piano’s bass notes, at other moments leaning closely over the keys to lightly caress the melody with its glassy top notes. 

After this tidal wave of an opening sequence, the twinkling tranquillity of Snowcap is a soothing balm. McCreadie’s piano is as pure and delicate as falling snowflakes, while Bowden’s soft, muted bass cushions their fall. In contrast, Sun Pillars finds the three instrumentalists bounding along a springy, earthy groove that brings out the rugged folk at the core of McCreadie’s compositions. 

The trio cascade through the album’s flighty lead single Stony Gate, both piano and bass following the wild, rambling melody as it trips lightly over rippling chords and Henderson’s cymbals splash like pooling rainwater. It’s a formidable, exhilarating finale but the resulting standing ovation draws the band back on stage to close the evening with Stream’s final track Coastline. The tune’s gentle ebb and flow and familiar Scottish lilt lends a comforting, even nostalgic warmth that makes it perhaps the night’s most poignant moment. 

Towards the end of the show, McCreadie remarks that since they launched Forest Floor two years ago at The Queen’s Hall, the audience has grown from around 400 to 700 people. As rapturous accounts of the trio’s spellbinding powers continue to ripple outwards, it’s not hard to imagine McCreadie playing to much greater audiences yet.

Stream is released on 3 May via Edition Records