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Cover of Tom Bancroft Orchestro Interrupto CD

In 2004, Tom Bancroft’s big band, Orchestro Interrupto, played a series of concerts with special guest Geri Allen on piano. This album is a belated release of material performed on that tour: it was recorded in 2005 but only released a couple of months ago.

Slightly disappointingly, Geri Allen doesn’t play on the CD. But it’s only a slight disappointment, as her place is taken by Chick Lyall who handles the role very well indeed. I don’t know how much of the piano part was written in advance, how much was improvised by Lyall, or how much he’s trying to recreate what Allen played, but the results are excellent. However it was done, he sounds like the right pianist for this music, and the piano part, a mixture of straight jazz and more classically-tinged passages, sounds just right for him.

He’s not the only soloist, though. Laura MacDonald is on particularly good form on alto: like Lyall, she seems exactly the right player for this music. Dutch trombonist Joost Buis is a new name to me, but he too is excellent, producing some splendidly Ellingtonian playing on the closing “First Steps Last Steps”. Other solos come from John Telfer (baritone), Colin Steele (trumpet), Phil Bancroft (saxes), Mischa Kool (bass – and what a great name!), Kevin MacKenzie (guitar), and Tom Bancroft himself on drums.

Highlights of the album, for me, are “Linda and Crawford’s Theme”, where sinister dark orchestral sounds well up behind and eventually overwhelm a lyrical piano theme, and the call and response section between the various soloists and the full band towards the end of “Ornate Bessie”.

In the past, I felt that Tom Bancroft’s work with large ensembles suffered from the sporadic nature of such projects (as hinted at by the name of the band). They had lots of good ideas, but they didn’t all come off. It sounded like the early draft of something very good, rather than the finished article. The material here sounds fully played in, though. It’s a big step forward from his earlier big band release “Pieology”. There are a fair number of big bands in Scotland today, but Orchestro Interrupto is, as far as I know, the only one playing nothing but original compositions. Let’s hope the favourable reviews this CD has been getting make it easier for Tom Bancroft to get a big band together on a semi-permanent basis.

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