Fergus McCreadie, Sketches Review
Exploring the Intimate Narrative of Fergus McCreadie’s Sketches
by Nolan DeBuke
Fergus McCreadie’s latest digital EP, Sketches, on Edition Records, is a journey through the landscape of improvisational jazz, painted with the vibrant colors of McCreadie’s unique pianistic expression. This 5-track project is intricate in blending the elements of Scottish folk, classical music, and jazz into a harmonious symphony of sound.
“Chorale” opens the EP, a piece that introduces us to McCreadie’s introspective improvisational approach. Here, McCreadie demonstrates a remarkable ability to traverse the dynamic spectrum, from the softest pianissimo to tense, blocky chords, and back again. The track embodies the essence of European classicism interwoven with chamber jazz improvisation. The listener is transported to a fluid land of emotion by the pianist, feeling the emotional weight of each note, especially as the piece reaches its climax with an intertwining of harmonies and counterpoint lines.
In “Eb Major,” the mood shifts to further pull us into the flow of McCreadie’s musical story. The track is characterized by an up-tempo ostinato that showcases McCreadie’s improvisational agility. The piece is lively, drawing from the rich European jazz tradition. Here, McCreadie’s skill in layering and texturing becomes evident, giving the improvisation a sense of direction and flow that is engaging and intellectually stimulating. Particularly noteworthy is his left-hand work, effortlessly floating between single-line ostinato figures and chordal figures, creating a rhythmic complexity that is both seamless and captivating.
“F Major” is a delightful blend of folk, blues, and jazz. McCreadie’s ability to maintain multiple layers of activity and melodies here is impressive. The track demonstrates his skill in balancing a light theme with textured progressions. His left-hand provides a steady foundation of rhythm and texture, allowing his right hand to soar through active improvisations.
With “B Minor,” McCreadie proves himself a true musical storyteller. The piece uses a grounding ostinato and a simple theme as a starting point for a rich musical narrative. The improvisation builds, climaxes, and then returns to its origin, a cycle that reflects McCreadie’s mastery of musical structure. The modal color of the supporting harmony is enriched by his use of textured and colored improvised single notes that draw from multiple scales, creating a vibrant musical tapestry.
Finally, “Glade” revisits a composition from McCreadie’s critically acclaimed album, “Forest Floor.” This track showcases his creative evolution, presenting haunting beauty and complexity that affirm his place among the elite in improvisational jazz.
Sketches, as McCreadie’s first solo recording, is a solid statement of his artistic identity. Choosing an all-improvised set for this EP demonstrates his confidence and ability to communicate effectively in an intimate setting. Sketches a vibrant canvas where McCreadie paints his musical ideas with the finesse of an artist with an innovative mindset that pushes the boundaries of jazz, blending tradition with a unique, contemporary voice. Fergus McCreadie, through Sketches, continues to be a visionary artist, reshaping the landscape of modern European jazz.