Live reviews

Jyotsna Srikanth and Justyna Jablońska / Fergus McCreadie Trio at Celtic Connections

Jyotsna Srikanth and Justyna Jablońska / Fergus McCreadie Trio.

(Celtic Connections at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. 30 January 2022. Live Review by Patrick Hadfield)

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The Fergus McCreadie Trio at their Celtic Connections soundcheck

Opening this typically eclectic Celtic Connections gig were Jyotsna Srikanth and Justyna Jablońska, violin and cello respectively, playing carnatic music from South India’s classical traditions. What’s more, the audience was up-for-it, their ears open. Srikanth took the time to explain how the music worked, from the specific tuning needed through the scales used and the way each piece was structured. She emphasised the role of each element – melody, rhythm and, in particular, improvisation – in building up the tunes. It was a thoughtful and engaging set, perhaps serving as an introduction to carnatic music to many in the audience.

The main draw, though, was the award-winning Fergus McCreadie Trio playing their first home town gig in a long while. With regular performing only just restarting, McCreadie explained how they were still getting used to playing pieces from Cairn, their album released during lockdown a year ago. They also played numbers from their first album, Turas, as well as a couple of new and as yet untitled pieces due for release in their next album later this year.

Whilst they may bear pianist McCreadie’s name, the trio is very much a unit. The balance between the piano, David Bowden‘s bass and Stephen Henderson‘s drums is very fine. Their ease with the music and each other’s place within it – the apparently telepathic understanding that some trios seem to develop and which this one has in spades – frees them to take the music in unexpected directions. For a young band, the music feels very accomplished.

McCreadie’s music blends jazz with traditional Scottish music, creating a real sense of place. Many of his tunes take their names from geographic features – this gig featured Unfurrowed Field and Across Flatlands, as well as Ardbeg, named for the distillery and headland on Islay where the trio have performed. His playing flows from gently romantic to highly physical, intense passages, such as in The Teacher, a powerfully emotional piece.

McCreadie explained that the trio’s sets are not pre-planned but rather, spontaneously chosen in the moment. Their familiarity with the music and each other gives them the ability to switch between tunes, moving seemingly effortlessly from one piece to another. They closed their show with an encore, a gentle, lullaby-like tune – a quiet waltz to send us out into the Glasgow night.

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