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Tom Bancroft: Trio Red First Hello to Last Goodbye Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Bancroft explores fresh musical territories with this great new trio.

John Eyles 2012

Scottish drummer, composer and educator Tom Bancroft has been one of the driving forces of jazz in Scotland for nearly 15 years. Trio AAB, with his saxophone-playing twin brother Phil plus guitarist Kevin MacKenzie, demonstrated that his sense of fun is matched by considerable musical ability and plenty of fresh ideas. His big band Orchestro Interrupto, for which he composed and arranged all the music, attracted rave reviews when they toured with American pianist Geri Allen. Now comes Bancroft’s latest project, Trio Red, born out of his desire to explore fresh musical territory.

The group combines Bancroft’s drums with Tom Cawley’s piano and the double bass of Norwegian Per Zanussi. Cawley is best known for his work in Acoustic Ladyland and his fine trio Curios. He and Bancroft had jammed together before, but neither had played with Zanussi until the three met to record First Hello to Last Goodbye.

The recording took place over three days in September 2011. On the first day, the group recorded a series of completely open improvisations; these pieces are the “first hello” of the album title. Bancroft wanted to record the trio from their very first note together, saying there is a special energy when improvisers first meet.

The results demonstrate that those instincts were correct; the six tracks are very different, but each of them bursts with creativity from all three players, who obviously gelled immediately.

The next day, the trio rehearsed Bancroft’s compositions and in the evening played a live gig. On the third day they recorded the compositions. The opening track is not by Bancroft but is a mash-up of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman with Joan Armatrading’s Opportunity, a juxtaposition that typifies Bancroft’s thinking and works remarkably well. His own compositions are tuneful and provide ample opportunities for exploration, opportunities which all three players seize.

The album is sensibly programmed so that the compositions are interspersed with the improvisations with neither dominating. Cawley’s soloing is a delight throughout, ranging from slow deliberation on Quiet through to pyrotechnics on Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye, which brings this beautiful album to a fitting conclusion.

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