Fergus McCreadie, Stream Review

An Immersive Journey Through Scottish Landscapes and Jazz Pastels


Fergus McCreadie, Stream Review

Fergus McCreadie – Stream: An Immersive Journey Through Scottish Landscapes and Jazz Pastels

by Ferell Aubre

Fergus-McCreadie-Stream-cdScottish pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie has carved a remarkable niche since 2021 as his career has skyrocketed as the result of two acclaimed album releases that propelled him into the limelight – shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and clinching the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) for Forest Floor (2022). His debut with Edition Records, Cairn (2021), set the stage for a journey deeply rooted in natural themes. McCreadie’s latest venture, Stream, continues this intriguing exploration, this time delving into the essence of water. Accompanied by his long-standing comrades, David Bowden on double bass and Stephen Henderson on drums, the album flows with the fluidity of its namesake, weaving through the rich landscapes of Scottish folklore and the sophisticated avenues of contemporary jazz, creating a unique and captivating musical experience.

The album’s narrative reflects the trio’s evolving musical identity, meticulously crafted to mirror a journey from darkness to light. McCreadie shares, “What I like most about this album is that it evolves from dark to light as the album goes on. It’s a sort of cloudy skies to sunnier skies journey, quite different from previous albums where the track sequence was more arbitrary.” Their sound, a nuanced conversation with delicate touches and bold strokes, speaks of their confidence and exuberance in forging a distinct path. Stream explores shared passions and expressions, pushing the boundaries of their musical language and vocabulary to new depths, inviting the audience to be a part of their musical journey.

“The opening track, Storm,” is an energetic four-minute wild piece with undulating riffs and dynamic energy that sets the stage for the album’s journey. The trio’s interplay is tight yet expressive, showcasing their ability to harness the raw power of nature in their music.

“The Crossing” is a sprawling epic composition spanning over twelve minutes and divided into four sections. It begins with a gentle motif reminiscent of traditional Gaelic lullabies, which McCreadie and his trio then develop into an intense improvisational journey. The track ebbs and flows, building to crescendos and then relaxing, creating a sense of movement and progression that mirrors the album’s thematic journey from dark to light.

The exploration of folk tunes is more fully obvious in “Driftwood,” where Bowden’s bassline brings the melody’s skipping dance under control and is complemented in its flow by Henderson’s drums and creative syncopations. The interplay between the trio is particularly evident here, with each member contributing to the piece’s dynamic flow and evolution.

“Snowcap” features a left-hand ostinato over which McCreadie plays a delicately unfurling melody, giving a strong impression of a reel. McCreadie’s elegant touch on the piano brings out the chord sequences as his gentle runs evoke the serene beauty of a snow-covered landscape, offering a moment of calm and reflection within the album’s narrative. In contrast, “Sun Pillars” finds the trio bounding along a springy, earthy groove that brings out the rugged folk at the core of McCreadie’s compositions. The track’s lively rhythm and melodic interplay create a sense of warmth and movement, reflecting the gradual transition from darkness to light.

“Mountain Stream” is a brief exploration featuring an elegant chord progression and single-note melodies that feel like the keening of a Gaelic lament. The track’s simplicity and emotional depth make it very engaging and highlight McCreadie’s ability to convey emotions and imagery through his playing. The trio cascades through “Stony Gate,” with piano and bass following the dancing melody as it skips lightly over undulating chords. Henderson’s cymbals add textural richness to McCreadie’s elegant improvisation. 

“Lochan Coire Àrdair” is an ode to a small lake that backs onto Creag Meagaidh in the Creag Meagaidh National Park, one of the jewels of Scotland’s highlands. The expansive track allows the trio to explore various musical ideas, from serene, reflective passages to intense, climactic moments. It’s a fitting conclusion to the album, encapsulating the journey from darkness to light. “Coastline” is a gentle ebb and flow of familiar Scottish lilt that lends a comforting, even nostalgic warmth, making it the perfect album-closing selection. As the final track, it leaves the listener with a sense of resolution and calm, bringing the album’s thematic journey to a satisfying close.

Stream is a celebration of individuality, a journey that resonates with the trio’s unique voice. It’s an invitation to listeners to immerse themselves in a soundscape with robust Scottish roots colored with jazz execution. For those seeking a fresh, engaging, and authentic musical journey, Fergus McCreadie’s Stream is a listening adventure not to be missed. The album flows like water – sometimes calm, sometimes tempestuous, but always moving forward, reflecting the trio’s shared passion for expressing their musical language and vocabulary. This immersive listening experience promises to captivate and transport the audience to the heart of Scottish landscapes and jazz innovation.

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