The Tom Bancroft Orchestra: Pieology

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
The Tom Bancroft Orchestra: Pieology Tom Bancroft’s six–year–old orchestra from Scotland has been described as “the most adventurous contemporary big band in the UK,” a statement that will go unchallenged here. I have no degree in Pieology, but after appraising Bancroft’s debut recording (covering those six years) on the new Caber Music label, I’d guess that it must have something to do with slicing big–band Jazz into as many pieces as one can, tossing them into a blender and awaiting the outcome — which, in this case, is often surprisingly appetizing. And if not to everyone’s taste, the music is at least fresh and unconventional. Bancroft acknowledges in the liner notes that the road toward becoming an accomplished composer/arranger (all of the songs are his except “The Battle of Algiers,” which was written by Ennio Morricone) is “a long and winding path,” and that he has learned “largely from trying to do a specific thing, failing massively, but ending up doing something else.” The bustling, Braxton/Hemphill–like title selection, for example, began life in Bancroft’s head as a Basie–style chart (which, as one can readily hear, it definitely isn’t). The playful, skitterish opener, “Cat n Mouse,” is the only tune on which the “pipes” are used, and those who aren’t inflamed by the music of Scotland will be happy to learn that the pipes referred to are Bancroft’s vocal chords, as he sings the verse in lieu of Fionna Duncan, for whom it was written. “Cat n Mouse,” Bancroft writes, was inspired by Ellington’s “Cottontail,” but any resemblance beyond its 32–bar form escapes these ears. “Scottish Heart” nods earnestly toward the folk music of Bancroft’s homeland, “The Piano Is a Dark Horse” is about his living arrangements and a borrowed piano, “Battle of Algiers” depicts, at least in part, a rat infestation suffered in the winter of ’95–96, “Sleepy Head” the imagined thoughts of Bancroft’s seven–year–old niece lying awake in a darkened room. Bancroft’s sidemen, it should be noted, are quite good, but as one can see from the photograph on the album’s jacket, they are without question a group of free spirits. The finale, “Coal & Logs,” is an extended (16:22) martial–based composition mostly for the ensemble but with some brief leg room for tenor, bass clarinet and Owen Marshall’s tuba. Like most of Bancroft’s music, it’s densely orchestrated, episodic, richly textured, sometimes dissonant, and decidedly not for the faint of heart.

Track listing: Cat n Mouse; Pieology; Scottish Heart; The Piano Is a Dark Horse; The Battle of Algiers; Sleepy Head; Coal & Logs (67:21).


Tom Bancroft, music director, drums, vocals; Claude Deppa, Colin Steele, Eddie Severn, trumpet; Paul Jayasinha (2, 3, 6), trumpet, cello; John Burgess (2, 3, 6), alto sax; Dick Lee (2, 3, 6), alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jorrit Dykstra (1, 4, 5, 7), alto sax, clarinet; Phil Bancroft, tenor sax; Karen Wimhurst (1, 4, 5, 7), clarinet, bass clarinet; John Telfer, baritone sax; Oren Marshall (1, 4, 5, 7), Lindsay Cooper (2, 3, 6), tuba; Rick Taylor, trombone; Brian Kellock (2, 3, 6), Chick Lyall (4, 5, 7), keyboards; Kevin MacKenzie, guitar; Kenny Ellis, bass; John Rae, drums; Jim Sutherland (2, 3, 6), percussion.

Contact: Caber Music, Room 8, 47B Bridge St., Musselburgh EH21 6AA, Scotland (phone 0131 653 2203; fax 0131 653 6781; e

Title: Pieology | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Caber Music


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roll On CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 25, 2017
Read Pandora's Bag CD/LP/Track Review Pandora's Bag
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 25, 2017
Read Float The Edge CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 25, 2017
Read The Attic CD/LP/Track Review The Attic
by John Sharpe
Published: July 24, 2017
Read Outside The Comfort Zone CD/LP/Track Review Outside The Comfort Zone
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 24, 2017
Read "Laughing At Life" CD/LP/Track Review Laughing At Life
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "Lionsong" CD/LP/Track Review Lionsong
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 21, 2016
Read "The Final Concert" CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "The Roc" CD/LP/Track Review The Roc
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Purple Patio" CD/LP/Track Review Purple Patio
by John Sharpe
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "A Woman's Work..." CD/LP/Track Review A Woman's Work...
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 30, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.