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He began drumming aged seven and started off playing jazz with his father and identical twin brother, Phil. After studying medicine at Cambridge University, he spent a year studying composition and arranging at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Qualifying as a doctor in 1992, he then worked as a jazz musician and composer, supporting his music income with locum work as a hospital doctor until 1998, when he began starting music related companies. He is married to singer Gina Rae and has two children - Sam and Sophie. In 2004 he received the Creative Scotland Award.
In 1998, he launched Caber Music with support from the National Lottery Fund, which went on to release over thirty CDs over the next seven years to critical acclaim, including two BBC Jazz Awards for Best CD, and numerous album of the year placings. He has subsequently started the company ABC Creative Music with his twin brother Phil Bancroft, which develops creative music education resources, which are now being used in more than 500 schools in Scotland.
As a drummer he has studied with Jo Morello, Joey Baron and Andrew Cyrille, and played with many musicians including Sun Ra, Joakim Milder, Charlie Mariano, Hamiett Bluiett, Liane Carroll, Oliver Lake, George Colligan, David Berkman, Tommy Smith, Julian Argüelles, Emil Vicklicky, Martin Taylor, Sheila Jordan, Shooglenifty, Karen Mathieson, Reid Anderson, Billy Jenkins, Bill Wells, Geri Allen, Mr. McFall's Chamber, and Martyn Bennett.
He is currently the drummer with the Dave Milligan Trio, the Chick Lyall Trio, and Kevin MacKenzie’s Vital Signs, the Laura MacDonald Quartet and Octet and plays in an improvising duo with the Italian guitarist Enzo Rocco.
He is drummer and co-leader of Trio AAB, whose first album, Cold Fusion was named an album of 1999 by BBC Radio 3, and whose second album, Wherever I Lay My Home That's My Hat was an album of 2001 in The Guardian, and picked in a list of 100 essential all time jazz albums by Mojo magazine in 2001. They also released Stranger Things Happen at C in 2002. Reactivated in 2011, Trio AAB performed at the Delhi Jazz Festival.
As a band leader and composer he has led Orchestro Interrupto (formerly the Tom Bancroft Orchestra), a contemporary jazz big band, producing the album Pieology in 1998, many festival performances, a UK tour, and a live concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3. In 2004, the band toured the UK with Geri Allen, and the tour was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and received five star reviews in The Guardian and The Scotsman, and was voted jazz gig of the year in Manchester's City Limits and London's Time Out magazines. Orchestri Interrupto released a CD in 2009 of the music from the Geri Allen tour, with Chick Lyall on piano, entitled The Ballad of Linda & Crawford.
Bancroft has also composed for smaller groups including the Orange Ear Ensemble (octet), and Kilt Couture (a collaboration with French group ARFI). In 2006, he launched the new Tom Bancroft 6 Pack, as well as a spin-off children's focussed band from the Orchestra called Kidsamonium, which premiered at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival at The Sage, Gateshead, and also at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2006, and went on to perform all over Europe.
Bancroft’s compositions have been used in radio, film, dance, television and theatre. He has been commissioned by BBC Scotland, BBC Radio 3, Glasgow International Jazz Festival, Assembly Direct, Birmingham Jazz, and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland. He has 'danced' in, played and composed music for Life on the Planet's Surface with Kelsey Michael, and A Case for a Picnic Pt2, Tracing Houdini, and hoOps hAtS & AcrObAts with the choreographer, Ruby Worth.
He has led many large scale community and education projects, including 150 primary school children performing at the London Jazz Festival, 200 at Perth Concert Hall with classical percussionist Colin Currie, and 100 parents, grandparents and children playing drums and percussion at the Big Stix project at the Gateshead Jazz Festival.
Bancroft is an active teacher and educator - from private drum students to teaching composition and leading big bands. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator. He has always been active in setting up new ways to promote jazz and improvisation. He curated a series of mini festivals for UK and European musicians inside the Glasgow Jazz Festival in the 1990s called 'Clandemonium' and 'Europhonium'. He was active in setting up the Scottish Jazz Federation.
In 2010, he was musical director of major dance show Off Kilter, which played in major venues across Scotland, toured Scotland with the Dave Milligan trio, and premiered the Band of Eden male/female big band to critical acclaim.
In late 2010, in his role at ABC Creative Music, Bancroft launched the website, ABC Creative Music Online, to allow Scottish schools to teach creative music by smartboard.