Young Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie is hoping his trip to Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall for his concert in support of saxophonist Tommy Smith on Thu 13 Jun is more straightforward than some of his recent travelling experiences.
The twenty-one-year-old from Dollar, whose group is shortlisted in the Best Band and Best Album categories of this weekend’s Scottish Jazz Awards 2019, has just finished a two-month international tour that took the trio to Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania as well as playing venues in Scotland and England, including the world-famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.
One gig on the tour was thrown into doubt by a Swedish pilots’ strike, resulting in a fourteen-hour train journey and a mad dash to reach the venue on time. And closer to home, last week, when the Mull ferry sailings were cancelled, the trio had to leave their instruments and luggage in Oban and take a rigid inflatable boat to Tobermory for their gig at the island’s An Tobar arts centre, where they played a reportedly “fantastic” set on a borrowed bass and drum kit.
“It’s been character-building for sure at times,” says McCreadie of the past few weeks, “but we were rewarded by really great audience responses everywhere and when we played in Stockholm, the organisers said, ‘you must come back for the festival’. So, we’re really excited to be heading to Stockholm Jazz Festival in October.”
McCreadie has had an eventful year since graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course last June. He won the Best Instrumentalist title in the Scottish Jazz Awards 2018, appeared at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Oslo jazz festivals and went on to reach the televised final of the BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 competition in November.
Then, following a triumphant concert at Celtic Connections, the trio made its debut at Ronnie Scott’s in January. They were so well received that the club re-booked the group at the first opportunity, on a bill with Israeli saxophonist and former Herbie Hancock sideman Eli Degibri last month.
“It was quite surreal just going into Ronnie Scott’s that first time, knowing that we were there to play that first time,” says McCreadie, who released his first album, Turas, last year while still a student at the RCS.
“Then, when we walked from the dressing room to the stage, suddenly we were aware of just how many jazz greats had made that same walk. Everyone who is anyone in jazz has played on that stage and to become even just a tiny part of that lineage was really inspiring.”
McCreadie’s trio, which features fellow RCS graduates, bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson, will be playing new compositions at Queen’s Hall as well as tracks from Turas. The album was named after the Gaelic word for “journey” as several of the compositions on it were inspired by the pianist’s favourite places in Scotland and many of the reviews he has received have praised his ability to give a sense of the Scottish landscape, and the country’s musical traditions, in his writing while still maintaining strong jazz influences in a playing style that’s both fresh and exiting.
“The idea with Turas was that people listening to the whole album got taken on a small virtual tour of these different places through the music,” says McCreadie. “It’s the same with concert audiences. We want people to come with us all the way but if they can connect with even just one image we’ve tried to convey, then I would be achieving what I set out to achieve.”