CD + PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
Broadway Baby (4 stars)
“With vocals and guitar from Sophie Bancroft and bass from Tom Lyne, the Acoustic Music Centre at St. Bride’s was treated to some stripped-down Jazz music. Performing both classic songs and new material, Bancroft and Lyne filled the hour with tracks from their new album, You Turned The Tables On Me and played older tracks, interspersing the music with friendly anecdotes about the songs and their influence on the musicians.
The original pieces were mostly written by Bancroft, who described how her musical compositions were influenced by the likes of Billy Holliday and Doris Day, while her lyrics reflected events in her own life. Covering songs ranging from Sonny Rollins to a jazzed-up version of Robert Burns’ Cannae Sew Cushions, the pair managed to hold their own against their musical idols, with Bancroft’s voice perfectly blending with Lyne’s incredible finger work on both the double bass and bass guitar.
Even taking the request for an encore, playing an unrehearsed version of Calgary Bay, Bancroft and Lyne kept their audience entertained throughout the set. The hour flew by, and thanks to the intimate setting, the anecdotes and the warmth of the two performers, it was like an evening with old friends.”
Reviews of CD ‘YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME’ (LISALEO 0701)
“A warmly intimate husband-wife singer/acoustic guitar-bass duo set made up of standards, scats and self-penned originals.” Jazzwise Nov 2012
“Their intriguing new duo album” Alyn Shipton, BBC Radio 3, Oct 2012
“Scottish-based Sophie is a new name to me – and a welcome one. She has been playing and recording for over 20 years, but has combined this with raising a family, teaching and work in jazz administration, so perhaps her rather low-key career outside of Scotland is understandable. Having worked in a wide range of musical styles – indie, folk, jazz – her new album has a strong jazz feel.
A mixture of standards (Ellington, Jobim, Rodgers and Hammerstein) and self-penned songs, this is a warmly evocative and relaxed set which will please a wide audience. Sophie sings and plays acoustic guitar in a duo with long-time partner Tom Lyne (bass). As a vocal teacher Sophie inevitably displays great phrasing and tone. Her style is reminiscent of Norah Jones or Madeleine Peyroux; though her voice is warm and breathy, it is not particularly distinctive – which perhaps dulls the edge of an otherwise strong performance.
The arrangements, however have a gently-swinging jazz feel (on the standards), and a broader folk/blues appeal on the three Bancroft compositions. There isn’t really a duff track – and the subtle guitar and bass backing really enhance the vocals. Standout tracks: Sonny Rollins’ Doxy, Bancroft’s own Just Like the Leaves (especially Tom’s quoting of Autumn Leaves in the intro) and I’ll Love Him Still, and the title-track. Great late-night listening.” Martin Price, FATEA Oct 2012
Reviews of CD ‘BIRD OF PARADISE’ (LISALEO 0601)
Bird Of Paradise is the first of this lass’s records (there’ve been four to date, apparently) to have come my way, and it confused me somewhat at first; but after just a few plays I find it completely captivating. Scottish-born Sophie is an acoustic-folk singer-songwriter with a jazz family background, who draws influences from both disciplines as well as the worlds of indie and hardcore traditional musics. To communicate her songs, which tend to “look at life’s cameos from a feminine perspective”, Sophie confidently presents her own musical voice, which seems to coexist in two principal modes of expression that on first acquaintance may appear more than mildly disparate: a folky acoustic-troubadour idiom with delicate rootsy touches, and a more jazz-inspired, slightly torchier brand of confessional folk. Sophie’s singing voice is classily pure, accomplished and very attractive, intimately supple and defiantly expressive when it needs to be, with shades of Thea Gilmore, Kirsty McGee and Lucy Kaplansky as much as Peggy Lee. She has a knack of wrapping that voice round the lyrics in a way that speaks directly and personally to the listener, at its most involving perhaps on the folkier material but persuasive on every count.
Her own compositions, which make up just over half of the ten tracks, provide the highlights without a doubt: the truly magical When The Geese Fly South is a standout cut, as is the bluegrassy (in both idiom and lyrics!) Supersize Me which laments one’s lack of personal control over today’s world, while the traditional-sounding I Carried Your Heart conveys a compelling mood of yearning and time passing and Home shows evident deep affection for same, if a little simplistically perhaps. Other songs seem more wayward in idiom: Occasional China is a nifty, scatty Latino-gypsy number that skitters sensually to guest Amy Geddes’ skirling violin, and No Smokin’ seems little more than a curious electro-enhanced puff of desperation but leaves quite an aftertaste, while its successor, the disc’s title track, is by contrast a song of imaginative self-analysis. Dented develops that theme further to the backdrop of a lone jazz double bass (Tom Lyne), while the disc’s closer, Caroline, written in collaboration with (and featuring vocal harmonies from) Boo Hewerdine, is one of those songs of self-questioning that’s best experienced in a lazy lounge during the early hours. I ended up really liking Sophie’s work and hoping to encounter more someday. FOLK AND ROOTS
“An impressive set of songs from Scottish singer-songwriter.
Singer-songwriter Sophie Bancroft hails from Scotland and follows in a long tradition of outstanding female artists that come from north of the border. Bancroft actually comes from one of Britain’s top jazz families but this set of songs is firmly based around a folk feel with hints of pop and rock thrown in for good measure. In fact there is a varied musical background here—Bancroft has even explored the world of electronic music and her songs have been used on US TV shows such as Six Feet Under—and recently her acoustic songs have been widely covered including by one of my own personal favourites—the award winning jazz vocalist Lianne Carroll.
This CD is a set of acoustic music with some simple backing and arrangements but there is real depth to the lyrical performance and some impressive vocals. Scottish music legend Boo Hewerdine lends a hand on the final track Caroline and there is more than a hint of Eddi Reader here. Bancroft has delivered an outstanding set of songs that deserve to be heard by a wider audience.”
MAVERICK MAGAZINE 4 STARS
“Bird Of Paradise” seems to be a far more relaxed, more laid back affair than Sophie Bancroft’s previous albums. It’s as though she’s found an inner contentment and seems to be more at home in herself. The result is a more free flowing album, one that almost effortlessly trips off both tongue and guitar. That doesn’t mean that the anger and passion of those previous cuts is missing, it most certainly isn’t, Bancroft remains an excellent reviewer of the human condition with song as the medium for her writing. She’s found a different edge to that expression and it suits her well.” FATEA
“Sophie Bancroft is a Scottish singer-songwriter with jazz and folk roots. Over the years she’s drawn comparison to several world-class artists, including Peggy Lee, Alison Krauss and Norah Jones. That sort of information comes as no great surprise once you’ve had the chance to hear Bancroft sing. Her voice is a perfect instrument, and when partnered by her own songs, the effect is both moving and incredibly life affirming.
“Bird Of Paradise” is her fifth album, and she’s accompanied by her husband (and double bassist) Tom Lyne, fiddler Amy Geddes and guitarist / percussionist Ross Mitson. Though very much a songwriter’s collection, it’s performed very much in a folk style. This is partly down to the purity of Bancroft’s voice, but also the unfussy arrangements and the subject matter of the songs, which involve themselves in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. “LEICESTER BANGS
“A Scottish folkster with a jazz family background, Bancroft’s explored both fields in her previous albums, not to mention experimenting with electronica. There’s jazz blues flavours here on the musically flirty Occasional China where she slips into scat backed by Amy Geddes providing gypsy fiddle, the breathy No Smokin with a percussion rhythm that sounds like the bellows of an electronic lung, and the skittish Dented with Tom Lyne’s double bass groove.
Mostly though she channels her jazz raising into folk intimacy, delivering the rippling, bluegrass flecked Supersize Me with its laments about the lack of community and childhood in the modern age, the waltzing I Carried Your Heart’s age-enduring love song and, also touching on a theme of passing years, the sparse wood-smoked When The Geese Fly South.
Written four years back, Boo Hewardine guests on co-penned closing track Caroline, a 3am jazz cellar piano blues account of an unconsummated drunken one night stand and subsequent self-questioning while, underscoring the classiness of the project, the album’s co-produced and mixed by Mark Freegard whose extensive credits include Maria McKee, Manic Street Preachers and, more pertinently for that sultry jazz vibe, Swans Way.
Probably more one for the Ronnie Scott’s crowd than your local folk club, but certainly worth the exploring.NETRHYTHMS
Reviews of CD ‘HANDWRITTEN’ (LISALEO 0501)
“Ten years after her debut, the Scottish singer Sophie Bancroft releases her forth album. Bancroft grew up in a family where many were busy with jazz and folk music. Her music blends both, but jazz is clearly her main ingredient. Although a song like Streets of summer shows she knows her way around the folky style as well. This album contains eleven original songs, all a poetic reflection f her memories and thoughts. Bancroft has a nice, warm voice and backed by bass, violin and accordion she creates a intimate musical world. Nice how a jazz singer uses folk influences to create her own, unique style. I know it’s her forth release already, but the first one that I heard and I love it.” FOLKWORLD
“The female element in the Bancroft clan, (brothers Tom and Phil are, respectively, drummer and saxophonist) turns her family jazz influence down low on her latest album, allowing folk, blues and contemporary singer-songwriter styles to weave inside her compositions. As the title suggests, this is a more personalised affair than any number of polished Norah Jones or Beth Rowley productions; recorded in Bancroft’s sitting room in Pathhead, just outside Edinburgh, the album recruits the talents of Bancroft’s husband, bassist Tom Lyne and neighbours Martin Green (accordion) and Amy Geddes (fiddle). The occasional foreign flavour of a Parisian cafe or Gypsy wedding adds colour to the songs, but it’s the velvet-draped voice of Bancroft herself that wafts through the set like a warm breeze. Lyrically too she is on good form, taking on the body fascists with I Would Rather Be Me and adding to a noble heritage of naughty blues lines with Won’t Be You: “Who’s gonna check my oil/Now that you’ve gone and done the dirty on me?” SUNDAY HERALD
“More than almost any artist in the winsome nouveau folk sphere of current fashionability, there is something utterly disarming about the transparency and straightforwardness of jazz singer Sophie Bancroft. It seems like she would not know irony if it came down from its web and sat down beside her. Has there ever been a more domestic break-up song than the opener, Won’t Be You, or a simpler contribution to the size zero debate than I Would Rather Be Me? The fruits of her time in the Burnsong woodshed are among the highlights, with Geoff Martyn helping out on Always Ever After and Davie Scott co-writing the best track, Clumsy, which has graced a Pearlfishers’ B-side” THE HERALD
“Having enjoyed Sophie Bancroft’s previous cut, I was really pleased when her new album, “Handwritten”, popped through the letterbox and onto the office mat. There is a cheekiness and a hint of a Gallic shrug to Ms Bancroft’s light jazz style. Her songs tend towards the observational often with a wry sense of perspective. “Won’t Be You” sees an unfaithful partner sent on their way, but who’s now going to service the car and walk the dog? Populated with people and places, including a memorial song to the much missed Martyn Bennett. Like chasing butterflies on a summer’s day.” FATEA
Reviews of CD ‘HOT AND COLD’ (LISALEO 0401)
“Along with its remarkable flowering of instrumental jazz, Scotland now has some fascinating vocalists. This elegant and meticulously produced CD inhabits the border territory between jazz and folk-country-pop, which suits Sophie Bancroft’s cool, rather ethereal voice to perfection. She also writes songs with touchingly earnest lyrics and attractive tunes. Easy To See’ has a quite gorgeous, Celic-tinged melody, while Butterfly’ is a kind of Scottish bossa nove. It’s impossible to separate the stylistic elements, although jazz predominates, especially in the very sharp acoompaniment. This includes Dave Milliagan (who plays so brilliantly on Colin Steele’s new CD reviewed here recently) and Sophie’s saxophonist brother, Phil Bancroft. “THE OBSERVER
“Coming as she does from one of Scotland’s musical dynasties, Sophie Bancroft has been exposed to music for as long she can remember, and the wide exposure over a period of time shows in the maturity, complete authority and confidence she brings to this her third outing as a solo artist.
Wary of catagorisation for it’s own sake, but necessary to give an indication where Sophie sits musically, it is perhaps fair to say that as well as jazz buffs she will also appeal to the adult oriented pop market. Not that I would wish to say that Bancroft is from the same stable as say Norah Jones, but she does manage to inhabit that undefineable gray area between genres that can sometime alienate the diehards but have a general wider appeal.
Sophie is without a doubt a jazz singer, but to this brings via her own song-writing talents influences from the world of pop and country. She has a light a clear delivery that is immediately appealing, and has a knack of writing a catchy melody that she is able to arrange in a way that keeps the interest not just for the listener, but also the first class band that she has retained for the last couple of years.
Bass playing husband, Tom Lyne, along with drummer Donalds Hay, brings a solid yet flexible rhythm to proceedings whilst Dave Milligan’s work at the piano brings out the subtle harmonies inherent in Sophie’s compositions. Coupled with guitarist, Sandy Wright who is resposnible for all the guitar solo that at times really lift set, and Bancroft’s own contributions on acoustic guitar, there is a lot more going on than is apparent on first hearing.
As fine as her previous two albums are, this is the best to date, with stand out tracks ‘Cruel Or Just Kind’, ‘Butterfly’ and the title track. Do yourself a favour and make sure that you do not overlook a young lady who is continuing to develop her personal sound and style that bodes well for the future.” JAZZ VIEWS September 2005
“Scotland is full of angels and demons. Some music is clearly from the bowels of Beelzebub and some is clearly inspired by angels. Sophie Bancroft from Edinburgh is the latter. Her voice is heavenly. She could sing about opening a bag of crisps and it would feel spiritually uplifting.
With her new lo-fi jazz album, Hot and Cold, Sophie does the impossible. She makes jazz accessible and reaches people who wouldn’t normally touch jazz with a barge pole. The title track on Hot and Cold is one of the many effortless tunes on a blissful album that has elements of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
Play it on your way out and let it rescue you from the ceiling when you get home.
This album is hip, cool and simply beautiful.” THE BIG ISSUE
Reviews of CD ‘MODERN LOVE’ (LISALEO 0301)
“Although born into one of Scotland’s leading jazz dynasties, Sophie Bancroft has also pursued her muse in the directions of pop, folk and electronic music and, in the best possible way, her diverse taste shows.
Her new solo CD is a dynamic mix of these and many other styles, including soul, funk, dance music and chanson, sewn together by the wayward, arresting trajectories of her elastic, creamy voice.
Echoes along the way range from Peggy Lee to Joan Armatrading, Alison Krauss to BjÖrk, in a a boldly achieved balance of the classic and the contemporary”. SUNDAY HERALD
“The sister of brothers Tom and Phil who are making waves with and on the Caber label north of the border, Sophie Bancroft has an impressive CV that covers jazz, pop and folk. She draws on all these diverse skills, weaving them through a captivatingly moody set of songs just right for staring out of the window on a rainy day.
One of the great problems a jazz singer faces is the weight of tradition (Ella, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Betty) and being boxed into a corner by the standards repertoire. As soon as you sing Gershwin or Kern or Rogers and Hart you are immediately in competition with the past, which is great if that’s what you want to do. There’s a whole nouveau school of jazz singers emerging doing just that and audiences are apparently clamouring for more. But standards tend to swallow a singer’s individuality whole because they plug into a range of audience expectations that have to be met. Originality is hard to find, craftsmanship is what audiences want the good old songs sang the same old way.
The way to get around this road block is to write your own material. Since the rise of singer songwriter in pop this seems an obvious route to take, but few have. But by doing so you create your own scene, play by your own rules and that’s what Sophie Bancroft has done, and it works. Comparisons are odious , but if they are to be made, it’s because that’s the way our brains work. When someone we haven’t heard comes along we need to compare it to what we know, so we can form an opinion about it. So think Eva Cassidy and the easy, folksy grooves she gets. That’s what Bancroft is into here Modern love’ and And The Rain’. There’s an openness and transparency in her songs that communicate, and after all, that’s what it’s all about.” JAZZWISE
Reviews of SPYLAB FEAT SOPHIE BANCROFT CD ‘THIS UTOPIA’
(Guidance Records GDRC-604)
“Sophie Bancroft’s voice will send shivers of sensuality down your spine.” Massive Magazine
“The melancholy lyrics, carried by Bancroft’s sweet, soulful whisper of a voice, nail you.” Propeller Magazine
“To keep this a national secret would be nothing short of criminal.” DJ Magazine
“Original trip-hop tunes elevate further with the dreamy, white-soul vocals of Sophie Bancroft. Persuasively terrific.” NZ Herald
“Bancroft is a vocalist and songwriter who has really come into her own in recent years. Showcasing tunes from her new album, she revealed how far she’s travelled, and her performance, imbued with warmth and humour, was delightful.” THE HERALD (4 stars)
“Gorgeous, original acoustic music.” THE LIST
“Weaving a tapestry of songs over the course of two hours, her smooth and smoky voice lifts above the mellowed beat of the music, washing over the audience, leaving them transfixed. Her eclectic mix of jazz, country, blues and folky rock, creates a sound that will appeal to everyone for years to come.”THREEWEEKS.CO.UK
“Refreshing and utterly magical.”THE HERALD
“It is for her ability as a musician that she’s become part of the wave talent now being recognised in Central Scotland.”The Herald
“This voice has elegant and ethereal qualities and should be encouraged .”The Scotsman
“She is the best vocalist of the new generation of young Scot’s jazz musicians .” The Herald
“The hottest outfit to come from Scotland in a long time.” Blow The Fuse, London