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Fergus McCreadie is one of Scotland's most exciting young artists. Soon to be a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he has been featured at the Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeen and Islay Jazz Festivals repeatedly for the past 4 years. His debut album, Turas, has been praised for 'reflecting his engagement with the Scottish landscape and musical tradition while also showing a firm grasp of the jazz piano tradition.' (Jazz In Europe) He is also a member of Graham Costello's STRATA, described as "groovy yet cerebral" by BBC Radio Scotland, and of the Mark Hendry Octet and the Matthew Carmicheal Quartet, both of whom have recently released their debut album. He is a winner of the coveted Peter Wittingham Jazz Award, the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the year u17s Prize, the Guy Jones Prize and the Joe Temperly Prize from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the Linda Trahan Memorial Prize from St Andrews University. He has also been featured on BBC Radio Scotland regularly as a leader and as a sideman, and has appeared alongside Bob Mintzer, Mike Stern, Iain Ballamy, Tommy Smith, Kestustis Vaiginis, Pat from Hue and Cry, Mario Caribe, Paul Towndrow and Alyn Cosker.
'If McCreadie had chosen photography instead of music his images would strong, bold and full of character. He plays loft-life jazz informed by a taste for angular syncopation and classical punctuation, but with an alarming ambidextrous intensity that belies his youthfulness.' - Instrumentali.com
'...(One of) Scotland's finest young pianists' - The Herald
'Kept (his) audience spellbound and turned this evening into something extra special' - BebopSpokenHere
Fergus talks in depth about his debut album Turas.
"Most of the tunes on the album represent places that I’ve been in Scotland throughout my life. I think the sense of place is very important. Having travelled a lot of Scotland and being a lover of all things Scottish has really influenced how I approach music and it especially comes through on this album. So I wanted the title to reflect that. I settled on Turas, as it’s the Gaelic word for journey. Just “Journey” would have been too on the nose for me, and I think the word itself suits the character nicely."
The Culearn Mill
This composition was written during an intense writing period at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 where I came up with most of the pieces. I was fascinated by the tension of going between three different sounds on the same root note (E Phrygian, E Dorian and E Lydian) without a complete resolution in any of them, as neither of them are really ending modes. I also wanted to write something in an odd time signature, hence why it begins in 7, but naturally the piece seemed to want to go to a 6/8 scottish jig mode so I let it do so. I like improvising in the jig mode in particular, as it feels very loose and there are a lot of places myself and Stephen can go in it. The Culearn Mill is a cottage in Balquhidder, which is about an hour north of Stirling. The three of us stayed there for a few days before the album recording to rehearse and workshop the music.
This is an earlier composition of mine, which I wrote in September 2016. It was leading up to the Islay Jazz Festival and during a practice session I came up with the melody over the repeated bass note idea, and everything seemed to come very naturally after that – I finished writing it in under an hour. About this time I had been practicing Beethoven’s 15th Piano Sonata “Pastorale” a lot (my favourite classical piece) and I think the structure of the exposition of the piece influenced this tune a lot. I hadn’t named it until we got to the Islay Jazz Festival Gig, but while we were playing it in the Ardbeg Distillery it hit me that this was a very special gig and a very special location, so it seemed fitting to name it after the beautiful setting we were in. Ardbeg is also my favourite whisky.
The Back Burn
I wrote this because I wanted to write something that wasn’t so complex – more of a tune for blowing on than anything else. It’s pretty simple (although the melody is quite tricky) and it’s designed to sound like a Scottish reel. This came from the same writing period as the Culearn Mill. It’s named after the glen behind my home area in Dollar, where I used to run about as a kid.
The oldest composition on the CD. I wrote it in late 2015, after having listened extensively to Thomas Strønen’s album, Time Is A Blind Guide. On this album he adapts a lot of Norwegian folk sounds into his own writing, and in particular the track “Lost Souls” really pushed me to write this piece, as I loved the soundworld that he’d created. The reason I called it “The Teacher” is because it’s based entirely on the black notes of the piano, and the first thing I remember learning related to improvisation was when my first piano teacher said “if you make up anything on all the black notes of the piano, it’ll sound like it’s from the far east.”
This tune came from the opening sound, which is a D7sus4 sound with the 3rd added in, played up and down the piano with the sustain pedal on. I was obsessed with this sound for ages, and tried for a long time to come up with a good melody to go over it. Eventually I came up with the melody on the CD, which naturally felt as if it wanted to go into time. I enjoyed the sort of rolling feeling that was generated on the track, as if one was going for a walk. I got the idea to call it “Hillfoot Glen”, as the start almost sounds like a waterfall in a glen, and the rest feels like a bumpy walk, which the Hillfoot Glen in dollar is. This piece probably took the longest to write, as it was very difficult to unify the ideas together as a coherent whole.
I can’t actually remember when I wrote this, but it was a while ago. At the time I just wrote it as a straight ballad but it didn’t really work to me. About a month before the album recording I was still figuring out the tracklist, playing through some old tunes, and this one just popped into my head for the first time in ages and ages. I realised that it would work better as an out of time ballad. I named it after Mull as I’ve been there many times, and love the tranquillity of it, and also how dramatic the scenery can be (especially the weather at the coast). The rising and falling of the dynamics is almost meant to imitate the rising and falling of the waves at the port, or the rising and falling of the landscape.
This is the only tune on the album that doesn’t really have a story behind it. I knew that naturally what I was writing was coming out quite Scottish, but I hadn’t really taken anything deliberately from folk music until I wrote this. It’s a jig and a reel, the reel especially coming out as very much in the folk idiom. I also kind of wanted to have something which was me improvising on a reel, but as if it was a jazz standard, so that the notes were Scottish but the approach was jazz. I think this is probably the closest it gets to trad music on the album.
The Old Harbour
This tune came from an obsession I was having with really basic harmony, where I just took triad shapes and moved them through the diatonic scale. The tune completely comes from that. In order to keep it interesting however, I’ve put in a couple of key changes, but the concept stays the same. I also enjoyed this feeling of it sounding really simple, but actually being quite complex – it feels like it’s in four, but actually on the page it’s in 6, with a couple of exceptions. It’s probably the hardest tune to improvise on in the CD, because of this need for it to be simple while actually not being so. I named it after an old abandoned harbour in Anstruther, where I was staying for a few days – it looked tranquil, even in its abandonment.
My writing process usually is nothing more than me sitting at the piano messing about with an idea, until it morphs into something more than that. Each of these tunes has come from a sound or a concept that I’ve been messing around with, until it’s taken shape. I usually don’t name tunes until after I’ve finished them – I like to take my time with naming the pieces, so that I really know where they’ve come from and what they remind me of in my life.