Live reviews

Fergus McCreadie Trio at 2023 Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Fergus McCreadie Trio

(Octagon Chapel, Norwich. Norfolk and Norwich Festival, 23 May 2023. Live review by Bruce Lindsay)

Fergus McCreadie Trio. Photo credit Dave Stapleton

Pianist Fergus McCreadie is still, in his mid-twenties, at the beginning of his career, but the musician is already developing a strong reputation with his third album, Forest Floor,winning the award for the Scottish Album of the Year and a nomination for the Mercury Prize, and McCreadie himself winning the JazzFM Instrumentalist of the Year all in 2022.

This concert at the Octagon Chapel as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival was the Fergus McCreadie Trio’s first appearance in the city, with bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson (both of whom have been with McCreadie for some years and also played on Forest Floor) joining the pianist for an early-evening performance. The trio’s profile is high at present, and it drew a large audience that came close to filling all the available rows of pews.

The trio’s one-hour set consisted of just three or four extended pieces, with a short encore after the audience’s extremely warm applause. The trio opened with a lengthy improvisation, McCreadie playing solo for the first few minutes before Bowden and then Henderson joined in. The influence of Scottish traditional music on McCreadie has been mentioned before and this was the piece that most obviously brought this influence to the fore. An as-yet unrecorded tune followed the improvisation, with drums and bass joining piano from early on. Then came ‘Morning Moon,’ a tune inspired, McCreadie told the audience, by an early morning walk he took one day when he left home in darkness and returned in the light. McCreadie’s delicacy of touch was again very much apparent on the opening section of this tune, as it had been at the beginning of the improvisation. Bowden and Henderson also displayed a great lightness of touch in quieter moments, Bowden moving smoothly from pizzicato to arco playing, Henderson shifting from almost imperceptible strokes on the cymbals to powerful, attacking, stick work.

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The Octagon Chapel is beautiful, but it’s very well blessed with windows, which means that on a sunny spring evening the venue was bathed in light from all sides. Such illumination, and the absence of a raised stage, made it difficult to differentiate the musicians from the audience, particularly from my vantage point at the back of the chapel, from which McCreadie and Henderson were hidden from view and only the top half of Bowden and his bass were visible for the vast majority of the time. It’s to the trio’s credit that they managed to create an intimate atmosphere in such circumstances, a respectful audience listening intently and showing its appreciation for one of the British jazz scene’s most intriguing young groups.

Fergus McCreadie is a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist for 2022-2024. This concert was recorded and is scheduled for broadcast on Radio 3 on 6 June 2023 LINK

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