Photo provided by Fergus McCreadie

Edinburgh Jazz Festival review: Fergus McCreadie Large Ensemble, Assembly Hall

Made up of his usual trio plus an array of luminaries from Glasgow’s fertile jazz scene, Fergus McCreadie’s Large Ensemble served up 90 minutes of extraordinary music, writes Jim Gilchrist

By Jim Gilchrist for The Scotsman 


The eight of them walked on stage and, without preamble, launched into a continuous flow of music – as yet untitled – that lasted an hour and a half. It could have been edited down a little; there were occasional longeurs, but much was extraordinary, signalling yet another milestone in award-winning young Scots pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie’s continuing ascent.

He was in impressive company, his well-honed trio with bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson joined by other luminaries from the fertile Glasgow scene, drummer Graham Costello, saxophonists Harry Weir, Matt Carmichael and Norman Willmore as well as celebrated London trumpeter Laura Jurd.

Things began with McCreadie’s gently lapping opening chords and a thrumming of bowed bass before horn asides built into full-throated calling – a taste of things to come – before subsiding for McCreadie to introduce the kind of delicate, Scots-folk-accented melodies for which he’s known. And so it went, the continually swelling and ebbing music giving individual players plenty of space, Willmore, for instance, embarking on an angular sax excursion, eventually joined by a rumbustious horn chorus, or a ringing, faintly oriental-sounding piano motif giving way to a ruminative bass solo from Bowden then bright cornet interjections as twin drums worked up a groove.

At times, McCreadie fully exploited the percussive aspect of the piano, stabbing out staccato rhythms; elsewhere it was pedal to metal, eliciting churning keyboard torrents and cascades as the band crescendoed around him. A lovely sequence saw an elegant cornet melody sing over languid bass and gently crooning saxes, before a sonic rumpus incited by Weir’s bellowing baritone sax.

Things concluded with yet another winsome piano air, taken up by horns and repeated in an extended coda – a tad overextended, perhaps, but full of heart.

The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival runs until 24 July. Visit https://www.edinburghjazzfestival.com/ for more details.