7

June Tabor, Huw Warren, Iain Ballamy: Quercus

John Eyles By

Sign in to view read count
June Tabor, Huw Warren, Iain Ballamy: June Tabor, Huw Warren, Iain Ballamy: Quercus June Tabor has been superb for so long that it is easy to take her for granted as England's finest female traditional folk singer. Despite holding that status for many years, she has never seemed to rest on her laurels. Alongside the traditional folk songs on which she built her reputation, Tabor has a repertoire broad enough to include John Lennon's "In My Life," Lou Reed's "All Tomorrow's Parties," Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," songs which indicate that her strength is conveying downbeat emotions.

On the album Some Other Time (Hannibal, 1989), she flirted with jazz, recording standards such as "Night and Day" and "Body and Soul." As an experiment, it was not a roaring success and Tabor did not approach jazz again until this trio was formed. Huw Warren has been Tabor's pianist and musical director since 1988. The members of Quercus first came together when saxophonist Iain Ballamy was invited to play on Tabor's album At the Wood's Heart (Topic, 2005).

Quercus, the trio's first album together, was recorded live in Basingstoke, in March 2006, towards the end of a British tour. Although Warren and Ballamy are both experienced and highly regarded jazz players and improvisers (and, yes, ECM is a respected jazz label,) this is far more a June Tabor album than a jazz album. For instance, right at the heart of the album Tabor sings an unaccompanied version of the English folk song "Brigg Fair"; predictably, it is breath-taking, but definitely not jazz. She is a wonderful interpreter of songs, being uniquely equipped to convey their narrative, drama and emotions, but she is not given to improvising or being creative with a song's rhythm or phrasing. Perfect for many things, but not jazz.

Despite that, the combination of Tabor, Warren and Ballamy creates a unique amalgam of folk and jazz elements which is highly successful because it does not attempt to pander to folk and jazz tastes simultaneously. While it blurs the boundary between folk and jazz, sensibly it allows all three musicians to be themselves and, does not attempt to "jazzify" Tabor or "folkify" the others. The songs on the album are a pleasing mixture of traditional and non-traditional, the latter including texts by Shakespeare ("Come Away Death" from Twelfth Night) and A. E. Housman (the First World War poem "The Lads in their Hundreds," set to music by George Butterworth) plus the love songs "This is Always" and "All I Ask of You" as well as David Ballantine's hauntingly enigmatic "A Tale from History (The Shooting)." Taken together, they cover a broad spectrum of moods and emotions, with the emphasis firmly on poignancy and melancholy.

The music provided by Warren and Ballamy perfectly complements Tabor's voice, providing settings in which it can be heard to best advantage. When she is singing, they do nothing to upstage her, the pianist acting as accompanist and the saxophonist occasionally unobtrusively shadowing the voice, both adding coloration and texture. When Tabor is not singing, the instrumentalists are more effusive, Ballamy in particular; without hogging the limelight, time and again he reels off fluent melodic saxophone interludes or solos which feel entirely logical in context and always enhance the piece. The album's main showcase for Warren is the solo piano track "Teares," a delicately beautiful piece inspired by English Renaissance composer John Dowland. Altogether, a very special album, certain to be one of the year's best. More soon, please.

Track Listing: Lassie Lie Near Me; Come Away Death; As I Roved Out; The Lads in Their Hundreds; Teares; Near but Far Away; Brigg Fair; Who Wants the Evening Rose; This is Always; A Tale From History (The Shooting); All I Ask of You.

Personnel: June Tabor: voice; Iain Ballamy: saxophones; Huw Warren: piano.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For A Centennial Extended Analysis Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For A Centennial
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Procol Harum: Novum Extended Analysis Procol Harum: Novum
by Doug Collette
Published: April 22, 2017
Read Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever! Extended Analysis Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!
by John Kelman
Published: April 17, 2017
Read Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 Extended Analysis Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017
Read Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band Extended Analysis Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 3, 2017
Read The Doors' 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis The Doors' 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Various Artists: Yugoslavian Space Program" Extended Analysis Various Artists: Yugoslavian Space Program
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures" Extended Analysis Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures
by Phil Barnes
Published: August 21, 2016
Read "Holger Czukay: Movie!" Extended Analysis Holger Czukay: Movie!
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: May 14, 2016
Read "Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight" Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Unreleased Art: Volume 9 - Art Pepper & Warne Marsh At Donte's, April 26, 1974" Extended Analysis Unreleased Art: Volume 9 - Art Pepper & Warne Marsh At...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 24, 2016
Read "Jasmine Power: Stories and Rhymes EP" Extended Analysis Jasmine Power: Stories and Rhymes EP
by Phil Barnes
Published: May 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!