Scottish Jazz and Beyond

Scottish Jazz and Beyond…. 

Scottish Jazz and BeyondVenue: The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
Date: July 13, 2019

Review by Fiona MacTaggart

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a huge and culturally multi-colored creature and tonight’s show, which was part of Creative Scotland’s Made in Scotland mini-festival within the Fringe, constituted somewhat of a Scottish celebration of cross-cultural music. Organised and MC-ed by local drummer Tom Bancroft, three bands were showcased, all primarily jazz bands but bringing significantly more than jazz to the table.

First up was The River, composed and played by guitarist Graeme Stephen with Mario Caribe on double bass, Bancroft on drums and Chris Stout on violin. Stephen’s music was cinematic, his virtuosic solos as usual evidencing his wide stylistic expertise and frequent use of pedal and loops, whilst traditional music star Stout’s fiddle danced in deft reply. Caribe and Bancroft meanwhile provided an at times down and dirty, and always secure and powering rhythm section.

The various pieces shared, ‘Estuary’ and ‘Delta’ for example, were beautifully evocative of moving water, and morphed easily from Jazz, to Rock, to Western Classical, to Scottish Traditional feel, sometimes seeming to be all at the same time. Rich and rousing music indeed.

Second up was the Fergus McCreadie Trio. Rising rapidly to national fame following his appearance as a finalist in the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year, 21-year-old McCreadie has shown star potential with his Celtic Jazz compositions, including on his 2018 debut album, Turas. 

Tonight, he demonstrated that his pianism continues to evolve, as he presented gorgeous tunes such as ‘Ardbeg’, named after the Isle of Islay whisky distillery, with sturdy rhythms from drummer Stephen Henderson and double bass player David Bowden interlacing, with Henderson periodically given space to fly. Habitually McCreadie’s tunes start out slow and intense, then via unmistakably Scottish lyricism, gradually swell into thundering and swinging jazz. At their current rate of evolution, it won’t be long before this band is a regular on the international jazz circuit.

The third band of the evening was MC Tom Bancroft’s own In Common. Guitarist Stephen joined him in this, as did Bancroft’s wife and sister, Gina Rae and Sophie Bancroft respectively, on jazz vocals, Indian-style. Violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava and tabla player Gyan Singh completed the sextet, adding interest particularly with the former’s all too brief microtonal forays, which sounded simultaneously sophisticated and gratifyingly odd to this Scot’s ears. Sometimes meditative, at others a truly out-there blend of Scottish jazz and Indian Classical, this was an aural feast. 

Further concerts by each of tonight’s bands are booked at other Edinburgh venues, Out Of The Blue Drill Hall and also at a venue constructed from recycled pianos, Pianodrome, which will give each band the opportunity of a slightly longer set. 

Such mixing of music from various cultures is something of an interest for many Scottish jazz musicians and clearly Bancroft is an enthusiastic proponent of this. At the present time here in the UK, as Brexit looms, reaching out to music and musicians beyond our borders seems more important than ever.

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