Reviews 3


Trio AAB Album featured in MOJO- 1000 ultimate CD buyers Guide.
Selected as one 91 must-have jazz CD’s from the history of the music.
“Second album for rather dark, marvellously irreverent Scottish trio featuring Phil Bancroft on saxophones, Tom Bancroft on drums and Kevin Mackenzie on guitar.  The whole has a confident openness- there are shades of Bill Frisell’s atmospheric sound painting and Ornette Coleman’s spacey freedom- but it’s also full of knotty, obsessive melody and faintly neurotic repetition that pulls the listener in. Terrific.”             MOJO
Trio AAB: Strange Things Happen at C
The Guardian Jazz CD of the Week
Friday 21st February 2003
“Trio AAB may be one of the numerically smaller manifestations of the upsurge of Scottish jazz energy, but it is also one of the most audacious and spikily engaging. The partnership of the Bancroft brothers on saxes and drums is significant in the local scene’s general profile-raising, since the two were founders of Edinburgh’s Caber Records. Trio AAB (guitarist Kevin MacKenzie is the third regular member) skids between Scottish folk music, the melancholy defiance of John Coltrane and the sprightly melodic laterality of Ornette Coleman, but has given its music a rootsier feel on this session by admitting Brian Finnegan’s flutes and whistles on half the tracks.  The opener (Ant’s Milk) is a typical AAB free-jazzy confection of Phil Bancroft’s piper’s skirl intertwined with Coltrane over MacKenzie’s stuttery guitar lines and Tom Bancroft’s bristling drumming. But the tracks featuring Finnegan engagingly widen the AAB horizon. MacKenzie is loose and eloquent over whooping wind sounds and hollow, bumpy, Celtic/Latin drumming on Station. Mournfully deliberate sax-jazz crosses jig-like music on Oddity, and mazelike Middle Eastern melody joins them on the zigzagging Yet. A band of real character on the up.”
John Fordham
‘Stranger Things Happen at C’ is Trio AAB’s third album. This outing on the face of it represents a change of direction for the bass-less Scottish trio following their critically acclaimed and punk rock spiked 2nd release (Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2001 – The Guardian) and their eclectic folk, drum n bass, ECM and hip hop influenced debut (Jazz Album of the Year 1999 BBC Radio 3).
Since their last recorded outing the band has been ripping up jazz festivals across Europe, as well as doing critically lauded, madcap deconstruction’s of Broadway musicals in Edinburgh Jazz clubs. The music has continued to evolve because the increasing familiarity, and comfort and freedom in the bass-less format, that comes from a band playing together over an extended period.
This album features the virtuoso traditional Celtic whistle player, Brian Finnegan, from the band Flook and Northern Ireland. Celtic music has always  been a major influence on the band, and all of the musicians play with folk musicians on the ‘integrated’ Scottish scene (including Karen Mathieson and Charlie MacKerron of Capercaillie, Martyn Bennett, Simon Thoumire).
In fact their improvised folk tone poem “Abstract’ from Cold Fusion(Caber 004) , is reputedly played to students on the Newcastle University Traditional Music Degree Course, but the Celtic influences were more submerged in the second disc.
This album has been recorded in the lead up to a overtly jazz/folk crossover CMN tour “Double Helix’ a double bill featuring the Annie Whitehead/Alistair Anderson band ‘Northern Lights’ and Trio AAB with Brian Finnegan, a musician who the band first met at a revolutionary “folk/jazz music melting pot” festival, BigFest, held in Newcastle in the late 90′s. Finnegan immediately stood out as one of the few leading young traditional musicians who was a genuine improviser, whose technical command and speed of thought allowed him to genuinely react ‘in the moment’.
Although this Cd contains 5 tracks without Finnegan, including the searing funky bagpipe opener “Ant’s Milk” and the impish Ornette inspired ‘Stuff Swing” – both of which contain the uninhibited AAB trademarks of flowing group improvisation and pulsating groove – the band’s centre of gravity, though conceptually constant, is here built around the quicksilver lightness of his flutes’ and whistles’ agility.
Possibly as a result this album is mellower and lighter at heart than the previous CD, but contains all of the underlying elements that have earned Trio AAB recognition as “one of the most interesting contemporary small groups” The Guardian or “the most complete mix of originality and invention”
The Times. 
This album, like a omnibus of short stories from around various worlds, beautifully captures the musician’s individual voices, irreverent sense of fun, and avoidance of the cliché. This is not the more common type of jazz/folk collaboration. Here Finnegan is at the centre of the music making, playing his part like an eccentric bird in the ‘magic realist’ african tinged short story that is “The Clock’, and weaving a beautiful and seamless web with the trio in the “soft on the outside/hard on the inside” drum ‘n bass in 7 “Oddity”. The most overtly Celtic opening to a tune, on Yet, then heads of somewhere else entirely, like a jazz-folk Radiohead. This album should confirm Trio AAB’s status as one of the most rigorously original and creative bands working in Jazz today.
Scotsman CD Review
Stranger Things Happen At C ****
” TRIO AAB’s third disc marks another significant progression for a key band on the Scottish jazz scene. It contains many of their trademark qualities, including relentlessly inventive soloing, a joyous multiplicity of musicalm idioms, and a shifting, but always energised, rhythmic pulse. Saxophonist Phil Bancroft, guitarist Kevin MacKenzie and drummer Tom Bancroft also explore some new avenues, and introduce a guest into the band for the first time. Flautist Brian Finnegan finds his own niche within their prodigious creative energy, and will feature with the trio on the Scottish leg of their Contemporary Music Network tour all this week.”
The Times CD reviews 4th March 2003
“…..But then no one’s managed to make party music in 11/8 time yet. There are probably those who’ve tried, including the Scottish mavericks Trio AAB. Led by the saxophonist Phil Bancroft, this highly regarded unit also includes guitar and drums but no bass player, and thus takes a freewheeling approach to rhythmic matters. On Stranger Things Happen at C (Caber) the band create an unlikely but convincing sound world that spans Celtic folk to Ornette Coleman. In aid of the former, Brian Finnegan joins them for half the tracks on flutes or whistles. Trio AAB make quirky music that avoids self-conscious clever-dickery while sounding thoroughly individual.”
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JazzWise April 2003
Stranger Things Happen At C
“Like many others I was a huge fan of Trio AAB’s ‘Wherever I Lay My Home That’s My Hat’ with its myriad of knowing references from American minimalism to mock rock by way of Coltrane and ECM – it’s subtlety resourcefulness and wit undoubtedly made it one of the strongest releases of 2001. Finding the band in even more exploratory mode ‘Stranger Things Happen At C’ sees them augmented to a quartet on half of the album’s ten tracks an inspired collaboration with the brilliant Co. Armagh flute and whistle player Brian Finnegan (from the band Flook) whom the trio first met at Newcastle’s BigFest in the late 90′s. Bristling with invention- a palpable quirkiness and a refusal to imitate-the album possesses it’s own distinctive voice- a rare thing indeed. Dispensing as ever with both the thick chording of the piano and the bottom end of the bass- the group’s core sound – with the addition of Finnegan’s high-octane and driving style-has a incredible clarity and edge to it. Idiosyncratic to the last-’Yet’ begins in jig-time with sax and flute doubling up on a strangely contoured melody- two minutes in- a fast dissolve – and the listener is suddenly plunged into ambient free fall-as if Stockhausen had suddenly swept into the control room and taken over the control room and taken over proceedings. ‘The Clock’ – a crepescular- African-inspired meditation-combines finely-wrought melody with equally fine improvisational flourishes (Finnegan’s quotation of ‘The Butlers of Glen Avenue’ sits well here). Guitarist Kevin Mackenzie’s melancholic ‘Two’ – with it’s impassioned unison melody outburst at just over the two thirds point- closing this magnificent album on a surprisinglywistful note.”
Review MOJO April 2003
Stranger Things Happen At C
“This bass-less trio have a light, skittish, quality and a surfeit ofcharacterful wit. The tremendous virtuosity of Phil Bancroft(saxes-sometimes sounding like bagpipes), Kevin Mackenzie (guitars) and TomBancroft (drums) is enhanced on half the album by the flutes and whistles ofBrian Finnegan helping their rigorous, playful jazz/folk into the mostnatural sounding of fusions.”
Caber 027 
“As an out and out jazz fan that is not at all keen on fusion or world
music, I was not expecting to like this album very much. My reservations
however were soon overcome, these guys really do create interesting music
and the jazz content is high. Scotland has produced many fine saxophone
players Tommy Whittle, Gary Cox and Bobby Wellins spring to mind; but there
have been many others. Phil Bancroft is a very worthy addition to that great
Kevin Mackenzie is a sensitive guitar player with a real feeling for holding
things together, as well as being an excellent soloist. Tom Bankroft looks
after the percussion department well whether on drums or the more unusual
bodhran, which produces an almost bass-like quality at times.
Guest Brian Finnegan is a very accomplished flute player as well as a
specialist on the Celtic whistle; he also possesses a nice jazz feel and is
capable of first class improvisation.
Each member of the regular trio has contributed one or more compositions to
the album and most are refreshingly different, creating a range of moods or
musical poems. Sundance, a Phil Bancroft original, is particularly effective
with a theme statement from Tom and some interesting backings throughout.
The sleeve note points out that in the title Stuff Swing, stuff is not used
as a verb! The track does swing in parts and contains some other ‘stuff’ as
well. The Clock starts with Mackenzie playing a bass line on guitar and
develops into another interesting performance. Trio AAB would make an
interesting addition to any Jazz Festival programme, their work is unusual
and interesting but not so far removed from Jazz, as we know it, to lose the
audience. The fusion of Scottish Folk music and Jazz works better than most
fusion experiments, perhaps it is the reason that Scotland produces so many
fine jazz musicians. Overall the album is an interesting musical experience,
not to be missed.” Don Mather.
Net Rhythms Review, www. net rhythms
Caber 027 
“Third CD from this Scottish trio of Phil Bancroft (saxes) Kevin MacKenzie
(guitars) and Tom Bancroft (drums & bodhran) who are joined on this outing
by Flook’s Brian Finnegan. While the first release (Cold Fusion) was more
folk meets hip hop and the second release had a more punky edge this one
veers off again with the folk influence more improvisational and the flute
of Brian Finnegan playing a central role on the five tracks he is featured
on. Underpinning the whole CD though is a flowing jazz groove which never
lets you forget that this was created in Scotland. Very good.”
Jazz Review April 2003
Stranger Things Happen At C
“Fresh from a recent CMN tour of England, Trio AAB try something a little
different on this, their third album. Known for post-modernist eclecticism
and a puckish sense of humour, their earlier efforts sounded something like
Trio Clusone colliding with Frisell/Lovano/Motian, whilst paying homage to
Ornette’s Prime Time. Their approach is rather more subdued on this release,
largely due to the presence on five tracks of Celtic whistler Brian
Finnegan. He foregrounds a strand of their music that was always present, if
only a little submerged. The disc’s lively opener ‘Ant’s Milk’ , played by
just the trio, perfectly illustrates that point, taking a folksy Scottish
melodic motif, delivered forcefully on tenor, and placing it above a
skittering drum ‘n bass inspired rhythmic pattern, further adorned by
MacKenzie’s intricate harmolodic guitar webs. This is what the trio have
built their burgeoning reputation on. ‘Fin’ perhaps gets closest to a true
jazz/Celtic folk fusion, with MacKenzie switching to acoustic guitar and Tom
Bancroft playing bodhran. Brother Phil’s plaintive tenor makes no
concessions to the genre, but the result is not dissimilar to some of the
best music made by Tim Garland’s Lammas. Unlike that group the focus is not
exclusively Celtic. “The Clock” is more an african sketch (via Don Cherry)
than a product of the Glens, though the similarity in timbre between the
Irish whistle and traditional wood flutes is striking. The essential point
is that Finnegan sounds at home in the tight knit unit of Trio AAB, and it
never sounds like a forced attempt to ‘do’ some heritage. ‘Stranger Things
Happen At C’ cleverly avoids a wholesale re-run of the trio9′s hitherto
successful formula. More a sideways step, it wont disappoint existing fans
precisely because it is such a logical extension of the trio’s longstanding
interest in their roots. With a record label that has a goal of documenting
jazz particular to it’s time and place, the Bancroft brothers succeed
Yorkshire Post:
Trio AAB : Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home Caber 021
“Intriguing title for an album and some intriguing jazz too. If it’s eclecticism and invention you’re after, this is the group for you. The trio is twin brothers Phil and Tom Bancroft, on saxophones and guitar (sic), and drummer Kevin MacKenzie. Their music embraces straight ahead jazz, funk, and rock amongst its many influences, and is characterised by constant rhythmic interplay.”
“That makes for a wide ranging programme that refuses to be categorised but holds interest because of it’s sheer invention. The opening Happy Repetition song is wonderfully open and springy, Some of the Things I’m Not is a marvel of three players finding perfect intuitive understanding.”
“There are some fine young British groups around at present and Trio AAB are up there with the best of them”. Andrew Vine, Yorkshire Post
CD Review in JAZZ RAG Issue 70
TRIO AAB Wherever I Lay My Home That’s My Hat Caber 021 (61:44)
“If you haven’t already spotted it, there is something exciting happening in Scotland. Largely as a result of Caber Music, bands such as John Raeís Celtic Feet and the Brian Kellock Trio are creating a buzz about Scottish jazz. Trio AAB are central to that, easily carrying the burden of being labelled “the most creative group in Scotland”. Their debut album “Cold Fusion” was one of the best of 1999, and this is a worthy successor.
The trio consists of identical twins Tom and Phil Bancroft (drums and saxophones, respectively. Tom is the founder of Caber Music. Phil wrote most of the material here.) and Kevin MacKenzie on guitar. The three sound comfortable with each other, having played together in various ensembles in recent years. Their music has a refreshing openness and sense of space. There is not much soloing here, but plenty of simultaneous improvisation by all three players. Compositions are used as starting points for creative explorations, but this never sounds like free improvisation; the trio retain an underlying sense of swing and melody throughout. And, maybe most importantly, they have a sense of humour and fun that shines through. They name-check musicians as diverse as Ornette Coleman, Jeff Buckley, Paul Motian and Bill Evans, but none gives much clue to the freshness and joy of the music here. This album will be on my end-of-year list of favourites (even though AAB offer no word of apology to Marvin Gaye for the album title).”
Inverness Courier Trio AAB
Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home Caber 021
“They may take their music seriously but this explosive and innovative Scottish group know how to have fun too, as those who heard them recently in Inverness will be aware. Guitarist Kevin MacKenzie – who fulfils the band’s piano and bass role in the band – registers more strongly in the recording balance than he did “live”, drummer Tom Bancroft is a powerhouse of polyrhythms, and although twin brother Phil’s equally muscular tenor sounds wooly on the opening ‘Happy Repetition Song’, a title which sums the tune up pretty well, the sax gains clarity as the recording progresses.
Owing much to Kern & Hammerstein, “Some of the things I’m Not” is as close as the trio come to a standard in this collection of funk, free-ish originals and atmospheric ballads.”
John Bungey, The Times
” There are some grooves too, and a good deal else, in the subtle and free-flowing music of the Scottish Trio AAB. Their first album was a Radio 3 Jazz album of the year and Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home ( Caber 021, distributed by Proper) is a sparky follow up. The trio of sax, guitar and drums move through noisy funk to be-bop and moments of quiet lyricism. What’s most remarkable is their ability to create beautifully judged collective improvisations. Absence of a bass player works to their free-wheeling advantage. Mind you , one of the titles may hint at the occasional frustrations of life at jazz’s cutting edge ‘Pay Some F***ing Attention’”
Express Star ( West Midlands Evening Paper)
Wherever I Lay My Home That’s My Hat Trio AAB
” A quirky title and a witty approach to music. Twins Phil and Tom Bancroft, on saxes and drums respectively, and guitarist Kevin MacKenzie offer original themes with unexpected twists.”
Trio AAB Album Review in Jazz Review Magazine: Dec2001
“This one grows on you rather than demanding and holding your attention at once, which is fine. I’ve always been a fan of instrumental groupings which have, in conventional terms, one or more empty seats , such as piano-free horn/bass/drums trios, or has here, a trio with a chordal instrument but no bassist ( and no one doing a Ganelin or a Stu Martin by faking a bass line with gadgetry, either). While a quick flick through your free improvisation shelf will of course reveal any number of recordings which would seem to qualify, it’s a different kind of fun when the musicians are working within more-jazz-than-not structures. Here the trio makes a series of hit-and-run sorties into the resulting space, of which the most telling has to be the lovely , melodic dadoomphs of Bancroft-the-Drums’ kick pedal on the cod-systemic opening track. He’s a busy but perfectly controlled player, which is just as well given that his contribution to this disc often amounts to structural framework, background wash and rhythmic punctuation, often all at once…..just when the listener starts to fidget something like the rampaging “Pay Some F**king Attention comes up endearing you to the music all over again.

phil bancroft – saxophone