Ferg Ireland Trio ‘Ferg Ireland Trio’ LP/CD (Mondegreen) 4/5

The Ferg Ireland Trio combines three leading players currently on the UK jazz scene: bassist Ferg Ireland (Kansas Smittys, Soweto Kinch, Ashley Henry, 22a), saxophonist Nathaniel Facey (Empirical), and drummer James Maddren (Kit Downes, Jacob Collier, Gwilym Simcock). This, their debut recording, was captured over the course of a summer’s day in 2017.

It’s great to hear a sax/bass/drums trio confident enough to rely on nothing but the quality of the compositions and the solidity of the performance itself. There’s no studio trickery or intergalactic wizardry at the helm of an over-zealous producer, just full-on, hard-swinging, honest, rewarding post-bop modern jazz. And that’s often the deal with trios, in most cases it’s the expression, the interplay, and the musical and personal understanding between the musicians that allows the music to shine.

All of the tunes on this recording are composed by Ireland, and it’s clear to hear the trio’s effortless cohesion throughout the whole album, no doubt due in part to the fact that they’ve been performing together for a good few years now. There is a depth and integrity to the music that comes not only from the stripped-down nature of the recording, but also in the way that the three virtuosos manage to combine and contribute as a collective, giving the tunes a tight, unified feel of collaboration.

The album opener “Stay Broke” sets the tone with its raw earthiness, Facey’s acerbic alto darting pointedly in and out of Maddren’s fiery Kit-work and Ireland’s deep, looping bassline. “Ludwick Blues” sets off at 100mph and barely stops for refuelling. Ireland’s bass solo is exemplary, with the trio driving on, full throttle engaged. The playful “Mel’s Mood” could be an old standard you haven’t heard for a while. Great writing meets great performance on this joyously effervescent piece. “When You Know” is more conversational in essence, with Maddren’s lazy-day, Latin-esque drums managing to propel the tune forward through some expressive soloing from both Facey and Ireland. There’s an immediacy to the trio’s music that I really like, none more so than on the blistering “Lips”. The trio are on fire here, successfully creating a mouth-watering vibe. There’s a distinct change of pace on the atmospheric opening section of “Confession”, its long, brooding intro eventually giving way to a flurry of burning solos and psychic interplay.

An energised debut from the Ferg Ireland Trio, it’s refreshingly old-school yet inquisitively modern all at the same time. The trio aren’t afraid to stretch out in many directions and their propensity for spirited adventure is captured perfectly on this debut recording.

Mike Gates