Fergus McCreadie: Forest Floor

Scottish pianist treads the leaves and mulch in contemplation and awe, inspired to play repeated phrases which he often develops with a crescendo


Pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie continues his Caledonian rural ride in this third trio album, very much a continuation of the terrain crossed in Cairn, the previous one. The eponymous forest floor here is not the bottom line of a place imagined by the Brothers Grimm in Little Red Riding Hood and The Frog Prince and entered at one’s peril; it’s a place trodden in contemplation and awe.

McCreadie’s Scots credentials are again upfront in compositions that at slower tempo are songs without words, often employing the short repeated phrase that would work like a drone were it not arpeggiated. Glade is a good example, being set up by a rocking ostinato that locks the musico-pictorial vision into undivided contemplation, as glades on a good day are apt to encourage.

McCreadie is a busy pianist given to instinctive self-restraint, often in the interest of the tasteful precision displayed by drummer Stephen Henderson and bassist David Bowden and typical of the magical Morning Moon, a chart in which the piano urges both into creative ornamentation.

Those tunes are folk-influenced. In The Unfurrowed Field, Bowden soon explores possibilities before another McCreadie recurrent figure sets up a crescendo (properly a growing intensity) – his trio loves them – before Bowden comes back at the end with a neat restatement of the tune first delivered by the piano. A crescendo is central to the arc-like The Ridge and to its final lap before things quieten. Such dynamics are McCreadie specialities.

On the forest floor it’s not all eyes down: ears are peeled. Landslide is almost a mouvement perpétuel, indicating an event that’s far off if it can be seen at all; its modulation at 3.50 cleverly marks a harmonic change of direction maybe mirrored in the event itself as the slip slides away to give someone else the jitters. It’s a more animated form of the impressionism in the ruminative tremolo of Forest Floor and reprised in the skedaddle of White Water.

Law Hill; The Unfurrowed Field; Morning Moon; Landslide; Forest Floor; The Ridge; White Water; Glade (54.47)
McCreadie (p); David Bowden (b); Stephen Henderson (d). Hastings, 6-8 July 2021.
Edition EDN 1197