Recital Room, Glasgow City Halls, 8th December 2007
The first thing to say, in case what I go on to say is taken as unduly critical, is that I greatly enjoyed this. But there’s something really odd about Phil Bancroft’s career. He’s a fine player, and writes better tunes than most contemporary jazz musicians, but somehow there’s a sense of unfulfilled potential about him.
When the now-legendary (in Scottish jazz circles at least) John Rae Collective burst on the scene in the mid-80s, it was initially Phil Bancroft who stood out as the individual talent within the band. However, twenty-odd years on, it’s Brian Kellock and Colin Steele who have gone on to have the most successful careers. Perhaps Bancroft’s problem is that he’s almost too versatile: he writes particularly good themes, but plays fairly freely a lot of the time; he can play in a swinging “American” style, but goes in for more austere pining-for-the-fjords “European” playing as well; he uses elements of Scottish folk music some of the time, but at other times he doesn’t. Despite a couple of decent solo albums and a stint as one-third of the excellent Trio AAB I still get the feeling that he’s not quite worked out what to do.
What he was doing this time was fairly straightforward modern jazz, with an excellent quartet which also included Paul Harrison, who’s quietly developed into a very fine pianist indeed, Aidan O’Donnell, back from New York from the occasion, on bass and Stu Ritchie on drums. There was still a slight sense of there being “David Murray” pieces and “Jan Garbarek” pieces, but it generally held together fairly well. A few more gigs and this could develop into a very fine band indeed. They’re apparently going to make an album based on this material in the New Year. One to watch out for.