The complexity of Bancroft & Lyne’s emotional world shines out on Monday Nights. You will – as I did – willingly submit to being in this “pandemic lockdown” with the extraordinary duo through these ten masterfully creations [and recreations of Louis Jordan and Billy Austin’s “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”, Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, Michael Franks’ “Underneath The Apple Tree”, an outstanding rendition of Lerner and Lowe’s “On The Street Where You Live” [magnificently re-harmonised and with an infectiously-upbeat rhythm] and Tom Waits’ Grapefruit Moon”]. The bar on voice and bass duets has been set very high by Sheila Jordan and Cameron Brown [or Sheila Jordan and Harvie S, or Arild Andersen, for that matter]. But vocalist and guitarist Sophie Bancroft and bassist Tom Lyne have put a new instrumental spin on things with the addition of Miss Bancroft’s exquisite guitar-playing. Truth be told, with uncommon artistry on the part of both members of the duo, they may have raised the bar a little higher.
Of course, nothing – or no one – compares to Sheila Jordan [absolutely no one] – but what this duo of Bancroft & Lyne succeed in doing is add a veneer of most eloquent intimacy to the art of the [voice and bass] duet. Intimacy and sophistication, really… with Miss Bancroft’s glorious tonal intonation – both as a guitarist and vocalist, and her articulation of the lyric – draws you in, deep inside the song’s stories and emotions of the characters she brings to life with such vividness. By digging into the meaning of words and phrases and then letting them live again in the floating lyric, Miss Bancroft seems to suggest that music speaks to her in the intimacy of her heart. And she pays it forward by making the songs come alive with uncommon poise and elegance.
Announcing the programme in the dulcet tones of her smoky contralto, Miss Bancroft begins the repertoire with the first few words of “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” before even the first notes are played on any instrument – guitar or bass. Not only does this speak to marvellous musical surprises to come – in the form of her guitar-playing – but also the magnificent accompanying of Mr Lyne’s bass. As the recording opens out into the original repertoire from the spry elegance of “Fragile Moon” through the aching beauty and desperate longing of “Miles Away” [which, incidentally, also comes with a mind-bending duet between guitar and bass], the mysterious splendour of “Blue Room” [where Miss Bancroft’s extraordinary guitar-playing truly shines as well] and the languid beauty of “Comfort” to Mr Lyne’s obliquely moving “Far From Mars” [which also highlights his masterful and erudite bass-playing], this music heralds a new kind of lieder in which both Miss Bancroft and Mr Lyne are equal partners: she offering an individual voice of tremendous poetry and he with some of the most graceful, incisive and intimate bass-playing you can ever hope to listen to in the quietude of this kind of setting.
No doubt the art of vocal expression and instrumental virtuosity will continue to produce many more amazing results, but no matter what turns up, I suspect that this offering will remain a shining example of what it is like to be the very best in its class on an album to absolutely die for…
Track list – 1: Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby; 2: You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To; 3: Fragile Moon; 4: Underneath The Apple Tree; 5: Miles Away; 6: Blue Room; 7: Far From Mars; 8: Comfort; 9: On The Street Where You Live; 10: Grapefruit Moon
Personnel – Sophie Bancroft: voice and guitar; Tom Lyne: electric bass and contrabass
Released – 2020
Label – LisaLeo Records 
Runtime – 40:18