Celtic Connections

Chris Stout & Catriona McKay/Sona Jobarteh/Georgia Cecile/Fergus McCreadie

five stars

Keith Bruce

FOR all the diversity in music-making that has been showcased at concerts in Celtic Connections over the years, there can have been few programmes covering as much territory as this online showcase for four very different acts at the top of their game.

In fact the latter two would perhaps sit more obviously in Glasgow Jazz Festival, although the traditional music ingredients in the compositions of pianist Fergus McCreadie are utterly crucial. He was previewing tracks from his upcoming new album Cairn, released at the end of the month. There may be a new minimalism at work here, but when McCreadie introduces a “simple tune”, that signals his intention to take a riff or melodic idea into previously uncharted waters, courtesy of prodigious technique. The exciting variations he explored around the continuous thumbed pulse of Cross Flatlands could be no-one else, while the soaring Cliffside was as picturesque from its opening chords as the new music fiddler Chris Stout (on viola) and harper Catriona McKay had revealed an hour and a half earlier.

Apparently as yet untitled, their 30 minute sequence of languid tunes linked by improvisation came packaged with film by Sorley MacDonald that ranged from snowy hillside, highland streams and birch woodland to cityscapes, petro-chemical industry and power-plants, presented in a way that switched in and out of the performance and from monochrome to colour. It was an undertaking, in the music just as much as the visuals, of considerable complexity, but very much the acceptable face of prog-folk.

A short set from singer and kora player Sona Jobarteh and her immaculately attired-combo featured the delicious rhythmic complexity of a hymn to her homeland, Gambia, before award-winning jazz vocalist Georgia Cecile revelled in the opportunity to play the mainstage of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Her partnership with the New Focus duo of saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and pianist Euan Stevenson at the heart of her quartet provides both a front-line foil to her voice and a top-class song-writing partner. Her originals may borrow shamelessly from earlier styles, but with an ear-grabbing lyrical turn-of-phrase, a song like Always Be Right For Me makes the very best of its inspiration.