The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh is celebrating its 40th year as a music venue this year, and part of that programme sees internationally established saxophonist Tommy Smith given the task of curating some special shows to highlight the wide music base that is Jazz Music. This show tonight sees Tommy teaming up with long time friend and musical collaborator pianist Brian Kellock and Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes. Opening this evening’s programme was music from one of the sharpest and most original sounds on the young jazz scene – The Fergus McCreadie Trio.
QH40 is not just about celebrating music, but the venue itself and, over the past 40 years, The Queen’s Hall has become a special place for audiences and performers alike. There is something special about this venue, it is very much part of not only the music community, but also the local community. Over the years, many now established musicians have taken inspiration from watching their musical heroes perform on its stage, and that ongoing inspiration and sense of continuity as one generation of musicians inspires the next generation continues. The Fergus McCreadie Trio are part of this story. All of our trio – Fergus McCreadie (piano), David Bowden (bass), and Stephen Henderson (drums) - met whilst studying at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow where Tommy Smith is a teacher and Artistic director of the Jazz course.
The Fergus McCreadie Trio are simply three hugely talented musicians with a skill level that is far past what could normally be expected of their young ages and they are with innovative music cutting their own very distinctive paths through the music world. How to describe their music? Well Fergus McCreadie probably summed it up best himself tonight as “jazz with a Scottish feel”. There is something unique about their music as older music (if we can use such a term for such a young band) and music from their debut album Turas (the Scottish Gaelic word for Journey) with songs such as “The Culearn” and “The Old Harbour” prove. This trio take much of their inspiration from the very landscapes and sounds of Scotland itself, and their music is as timeless as that inspiration.
Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock performing any music together is always a treat as not only do the two of them have that connection that only comes with many years of friendship and performing music together (including three recordings) but both are not only very individual and gifted musicians, but vast resources on the history of Jazz Music. Simply put, Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock can play anything that they want to from any era or style of Jazz, and that was reflected so effortlessly tonight with classic jazz sounds playing against the more experimental of “El Nino” and its 11 bar blues format from Tommys Smith’s 1999 “BlueSmith” album.
On stage with Tommy and Brian tonight was one of the great voices in Gaelic singing, Kathleen MacInnes. This was, however, traditional songs and stories of spinning, the landscape, cows and fairy folks given a very jazzy feel to them. If our trio are to believed, then that little known history of jazz, crofters sitting spinning while listening to jazz music has until now been overlooked. Listening to this melting pot of music tonight, you could almost believe the story to be true. One highlight for many in the audience was Robert Burns much loved “Ae Fond Kiss” given not only its original Gaelic inspiration song by Kathleen, but a classic jazz saxophone solo from Tommy Smith. Interesting to note (well at least to me) how soulful many of these traditional songs are, and how with these arrangements what a good “blues” voice Kathleen MacInnes has should she ever decide to explore this genre of music further.
Whatever your tastes in Jazz (or just music in general), there was something here for so many different people in this show, and that constant willingness to explore and do the unexpected musically is something that I always like in Tommy Smith’s work.
Since the line-up for tonight’s show was announced some months ago, the Scottish Jazz Awards for 2019 have been announced a few days ago, and amongst those awards
Best Instrumentalist Award Brian Kellock
Best Band Award Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. (Tommy Smith is the musical director of SNJO)
Best Album Award Fergus McCreadie Trio, Turas
Clearly both Scottish music and The Queen’s Hall continue to both be in more than safe hands for future years.
Review by Tom King