Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Phil Bancroft and the lost CDs - Pt 2.

In the first posting of  Phil Bancroft and the lost CDs - Pt 1 (see previous posting) I ended up only getting Phil's first CD looked at, and only just the bear bones at that. I listened to it again and again over the past few days whilst writing all of this and realised how much there was on there that I'd forgotten, after all I bought the CD some 7 or 8 years ago! In fact writing about music is (I find) an excellent way of really looking in depth at what it all means to you. Here's what I wrote on the previous post to explain my first introduction to Headlong.

I once called the office of Caber records, a now extinct CD label for promoting Scotland's jazz music and musicians, after reading a little quote on the CD sleeve saying that you could return the disc if you weren't satisfied by the music. I'd just read a review on a disc by Phil Bancroft and his then 4tet called Headlong and thinking it sounded really interesting ordered the disc from Caber. On first hearing the CD I was a little disappointed due to the fact that the sax was not taking a more 'upfront' traditional role, which is what I'd been expecting. I called the Caber office a few days later and started explaining the situation (taking into account the remark on the CD about returns). The secretary for some reason didn't get what I was saying and said that Phil was in the office and why didn't I speak to him ....!!! So, onto the line he came, and I then had to explain the situation to my embarrassment and of course to Phil's amazement. He stayed calm and suggested politely that maybe I should give the CD a second chance and then the conversation carried on a bit as I asked after his other albums. Anyhow, I kept the CD, and to cut an already long story short, I ended up over the next two years buying a packet of albums from Caber, all of which are excellent. In fact, and the reason for this posting, Headlong became one of my all time favourite albums and seriously influenced my thinking about composition and musical direction. Also as I discovered the gems that were coming from the Bancroft brothers Phil and Tom I was more and more interested in getting a more personal style of music for myself, and those discs were in a way the start of one of my projects Al-Orkesta. But that's a whole other thing, and here I thought to highlight a few of those CDs from the now defunct Caber label. How these guy and their music missed the radar is a mystery to me, and of course the failing of such a world-class label also(*).

Headlong (Caber 2004)

Phil Bancroft - Tenor Sax
Mike Walker - Guitar
Reid Anderson - Bass
Thomas Strønen - Drums

After introducing the album it's difficult not to over-blow it's qualities, however, there's much on this album yet at the same time so understated that it gradually gets under your skin, something that all good music does, a 'grower' as some people say. There's also the unique quality of the musicians that Phil choose and with such a combination as this you end up with excellent music and (naturally in jazz) very sympathetic support for each other. Mike Walker absolutely blows up a storm at some points the first tune (see below) being a good example. Reid Anderson from the now well known Bad Plus plays with his usual taste, and due to the fact that the music is so contemporary he really fits well into the sound of the group/music, it's a shame that this was there only record. And finally Thomas Strønen, for all that don't know this drummer come percussionist make an effort to listen to some of his other work as he takes the notion of playing rhythm (or drums) in a very different direction from most players. 

Golden Section - Tk 1.

The music ranges from delicate melodies, which develop into hard swinging pieces, to much freer forms, in fact much of the music really hangs on a precipice of in and out which is what keeps it so fresh. Tracks such as Goes Around, Comes Around start as gentle 'Ornette-esque' melodies developing into full blown free improvisations, and yet tracks Samson Sam Song Part 1 and later Headlong are both very loose pieces, gentle ballads that remains delicate throughout, and such lovely tunes full of space and atmosphere - it's on these pieces that Thomas Strønen really uses his percussive palette. BOIP Avoiding being a good example of a piece that starts in what seems a boppish manner and then little by little becomes a (melodic) free for all, which continues swinging, in fact never lets up. In fact the strength of the album is exactly the point that I missed when phoning Caber's office, nobody really hogs the limelight on this album, it's truly collective. Players emerge from the group to play more (solo?) or less as compared to the others around them, and this gives an effect of real music rather than the usual - theme, solo, theme .... etc. Unfortunately I never got a chance to hear the group live, and I think that they maybe only toured the UK once, which is a shame when hearing the results. I seem to remember that the 4tet played a BBC Radio 3 session, but again I didn't catch it and I think that this group live must have been a very exciting group, and probably more suited to live work than the  confines of  CD.

Double Trouble - Tk 5.

Finally here's a video of one of Phil Bancroft's latest projects 'Home Small as the World'. I don't know if there's any album coming out of it but the music sounds fresh and interesting as always. I know he has another CD worth of material but since (on his web pages) it's been ready for release 'soon' for quite a while I wonder if it will ever actually be released.

You should also check out Phil's wacky YouTube video Message from the Future which is done with the usual Bancroft sense of humour, and of course no boundaries when talking about music.


  1. I remember being very excited by headlong when it came out, don't think I've listened to it in years, you've inspired me to go and dig it out!

  2. Hi Olie

    Yes I was most inspired by this album also. It's a shame that Phil doesn't seem to be out there doing what he does best ... make original music. I thought the Bancroft brothers had some really original ideas about music and of course the Caber records adventure. I hope Phil brings out a new record one of these days.

    Thanks for your comment.


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