Tom Bancroft’s In Common – Love & Stillness
(Interrupto Music IM008 – CD review by Mark McKergow)
Drummer and composer Tom Bancroft has developed a fascinating cross-cultural project drawing on jazz, Indian classical and Scottish traditional music. The resulting album is a very appealing listen – full of action and yet beautifully calm and reflective.
Bancroft has been a driving force on the Scottish music scene for years – he’s performed with the likes of Sun Ra and Geri Allen, as well as leading his own outfits. (I particularly remember Trio AAB, with his twin brother Phil on saxophone and guitarist Kevin MacKenzie, blowing away the old Bimhuis in Amsterdam one Saturday night.) He has also led many educational projects and worked with school children. This is clearly not a man who is afraid of new contexts, and with this In Common project he has worked from scratch to build something new.
The Indian connection is provided by Delhi based violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava and his long-term musical partner Gyan Singh on tabla. Steeped in the North Indian classical tradition, these master musicians bring their own skills in extended developments and dextrous improvisations to the mix. It’s well worth watching Tom Bancroft’s video of his trip to India on the project webpage (link below), where this excellent drummer is clearly having a tough time grappling with the intricacies of the rhythms he is being shown by his collaborators. He clearly managed to deal with it though – the recordings are totally smooth and flowing and give no hint of the effort required.
The Scottish end of the equation is balanced up with vocalists Sophie Bancroft, Gina Rae and Inge Thomsen, who work with Bancroft as part of the Pathhead Music Collective based in a small ex-mining village to the south-east of Edinburgh. Guitarist Graeme Stephen, Bancroft’s own long-term musical partner, completes the lineup and plays an important role in creating the textures of the music.
The CD consists of 13 tracks, but there’s more to it than that – many of the tracks have several distinct sections, with the focus shifting around. The opening Somehow Something is a good example – a drone and tabla rhythm is joined by jaunty Scots voices which give way to a violin solo including some dramatic low double-stopping, leading to a reflective passage which picks up steam again as the vocalists rejoin and the violin builds behind. This is a CD to really listen to all the way through – the whole collection is a journey into somewhere else.
Along the way, some notable highpoints are The Burnin’ O Auchindoun, the rolling bassline and tabla counterbalancing the traditional song with rolling momentum, and the title track which pulls together all the resources with some dramatic drumwork and a fine vocal climax. Drums & Tabla shows the results of Bancroft’s drum homework with some terrific duo work. & Nette Ball brings a dose of swing to the proceedings, allowing the Indians to stretch out on some Western rhythms.
Love & Stillness is well-titled. For all the speed and energy of the musicians, the whole thing has a beautifully restrained quality which presents us with a delightful opportunity to breathe in, feel the world in harmony and enjoy the moment.