Fergus McCreadie – Forest Floor
(Edition Records – EDN1197 review by Graham Spry)
This third release from Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie, Forest Floor is a wonderful album inspired by Scotland’s unique landscape which is both craggy and green. The music is contemporary jazz in the EST and Bad Plus lineage, suffused in Scottish folk traditions and performed by an outstanding trio of young musicians with a shared ambition to convey what they love about their country to the wider world.
Forest Floor follows McCreadie’s self-released debut album, Turas, from 2018, which won the Album of the Year title at both the Parliamentary Jazz Awards and the Scottish Jazz Awards, and his first album for Edition, Cairn, which was awarded five stars by Mojo magazine and was shortlisted for the Jazz FM Awards 2021.
As on those previous albums, McCreadie is joined by David Bowden on double-bass and Stephen Henderson on drums, both, like McCreadie, active members of Glasgow’s vibrant young jazz scene. The album opens with high intensity on Law Hill, with McCreadie and Henderson powering ahead on a tune that honours a landmark just outside the town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, where McCreadie grew up. Most of the songs on the album are rather less intense, perhaps in keeping with the photograph on the album’s cover which displays the fern, moss and wood that might be found on a forest floor.
The Unfurrowed Field is a charming tune with more than a touch of Scottish folk melody. Morning Moon gradually unfolds, steered as much by Bowden’s delicate arco playing as by McCreadie’s impressionistic piano. Unsurprisingly, given its title, Landslide brings back the energy and even discord of Law Hill. The title track, Forest Floor, is wistful and elegiac, with the piano very much to the fore. The remaining tracks, like their titles, The Ridge, White Water and Glade, continue in this vein to evoke the close proximity of the barren and the verdant that makes Scotland’s landscape so magnificent.
The album is launched with concerts by the trio at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on 8th April and at Ronnie Scott’s on 19th April. The group then plays gigs in Scotland and England, including Nottingham, Barnard Castle, Stroud and the Love Supreme Festival on 1st July. They also have a showcase at jazzahead! where they will be the sole representatives not only of Scotland but of the whole of the UK.
Fergus McCreadie’s music is very much rooted in his native country, and yet it has both audience and critical appeal well beyond Scotland’s shores.