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The folk singer June Tabor has been a marvel of English music since the 1960s, and her long-term pianist Huw Warren and saxophonist Iain Ballamy only enhance her clarity, stillness and deep but fragile sound. The three previously combined on the the 2005 album At the Wood’s Heart, and this broodingly beautiful music was recorded on their tour as Quercus the following year, though the sound is so clean it could be a studio set. [...] Nobody plays a note too many or expresses a false emotion. It’s a unique tribute to the power of song.
John Fordham, The Guardian

Drei Briten beschwören die Magie der leisen Töne. Es herrscht eine Atmosphäre wie in einer halbverfallenen Kirche. Wenn June Tabor mit ihrem dunklen Timbre von Liebe und Tod singt, heult dazu leise der Nordwind aus dem magischen Saxofon des Schotten Iain Ballamy. Mit dem Pianisten Huw Warren aus Wales nahmen die beiden das atmosphärische Album ‚Quercus’ (ECM) auf. […] Die Hymnen auf die Natur und die Vergänglichkeit, die Tapferkeit des Herzens und das Glück der wahren Liebe wirken wie Medizin für verletzte Seelen. Unaufgeregt verzaubernde Musik ist auf diesem Album. Es ist ein Meisterwerk.
Karl Lippegaus, Süddeutsche Zeitung

This trio may seem like a disparate proposition: June Tabor is the dark-voiced queen of English folk, who was honoured as Singer of the Year and for her work with the Oysterband at the 2012 BBC Folk Awards. Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren are known as adventurous jazz improvisers on, respectively, saxophone and piano. But the fusion is magical here as the pair’s subtle embellishments accentuate the force of Tabor’s austere yet soulful delivery on tunes that range from ancient folk to their own, via settings of A.E. Housman and Shakespeare.
John Bungey, The Times

An unlikely trio, you might think, but the combination proves quite magical. Together they create a subtle new idiom in which lyrics by Shakespeare, Burns and Hosuman, a 1940s song by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, English folk songs and a melody by John Dowland can emerge in a new and delicate light. Recorded live (before a remarkably restrained audience, in which nobody coughs), this is one of the most surprising and beautiful pieces of work I have heard in a long time.
Dave Gelly, The Observer

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 Word 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.
John Eyles, AllAboutJazz

June Tabor’s musical diversions always excite interest if not unanimous approval [..] this liaison with the magnificent contemporary jazz sax player Iain Ballamy and long-time collaborator, pianist Huw Warren is, then, but the latest in a proud track record of stretching and testing herself – and, some might say, her audience too. Light listening it is not and nor should it or is it intended to be. Such is the air of sombre majesty and studied technique filling the speakers it’s quite a shock to discover this is a live recording captured from one gig (at the Anvil in Basingstoke) in 2006. Ballamy’s economic sax stalks Tabor’s voice with dogged devotion – the unconventional combination at times blending into a thrillingly macabre double act – while Warren’s cascading piano fills the gaps with evocative dexterity.
Colin Iwin, fRoots

Musically the album brings together classic material from the folk repertoire such as poetry and arrangements of traditional songs with a jazz sensibility on piano and saxophone and this fusion works incredibly well, and, in addition, it manages to succeed in respecting both traditions while alienating neither. A good deal of credit is down to the musicians themselves. Pianist Huw Warren has performed in a variety of contexts including new music and avant-garde jazz and his essentially minimalist approach to playing the piano here is totally appropriate and provides the ideal counterfoil to Tabor’s vocal delivery. Saxophonist Iain Ballamy has sufficient space to engage in interplay with the pianist while at the same time playing a supportive role to Tabor. A sumptuous interpretation of Robert Burns’ ‘Lassie lie near me’ is unquestionably an album highlight and it is beautifully arranged with a fine vocal intro by Tabor and a lingering saxophone solo from Ballamy that ends off a truly memorable piece. Arguably the finest ballad on the set is ‘The lads in their hundreds’ which is deeply melodic and a hook of a chorus that Tabor delivers effortlessly while piano and saxophone have the opportuntiy to stretch out. [...] One of the year’s most revelatory recordings.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe

Quercus means ‘oak’ in Latin, and the oak is steeped in folklore from root to crown. So is the music on this superlative set, recorded live at The Anvil in Basingstoke in 2006, and featuring June Tabor with her longtime accompanist, the pianist Huw Warren, and British jazz saxophonist Iain Ballamy. There’s a lyrical, airborne romanticism in Ballamy’s improvisations, and his interplay with Warren and Tabor is as various as the patterns in fallen leaves. [...] Tabor’s voice is as stunning as ever – the unaccompanied ‘Brigg Fair’ is mesmerising – and Quercus is a project that demands an immediate follow-up.
Tim Cumming, Songlines

There won’t be many records released this year that draw from as deep a well as Quercus. Folk songs survive for generations because their meanings are profound and chime perfectly with their melodies. And few singers can reveal those meanings as magically as English folk legend June Tabor. The sincerity of her delivery is borne of a deep respect for words. She makes old songs live again and new songs sound like they’ve been around for years. The piano is still an unusual instrument in folk music, but Tabor’s dark tones find the perfect foil in the delicate precision of Welsh pianist Huw Warren’s accompaniments. The two have enjoyed a fruitful relationship for more than two decades. Joining them on this live recording, captured in crystalline silence on a UK tour in March 2006, is saxophonist Iain Ballamy [...] For Quercus, he strips back his harmonic pallet, responding to Tabor’s singing with austerely elegiac solos that respect the material even as they strectch it out into new territory. [...] The emotional and political directness of the songs, and the affecting candour with which Tabor delivers them, offer a rebuke to the emptiness of so much of contemporary popular music.
Cormac Larkin, The Irish Times

Ein großer Reichtum des europäischen Jazz liegt in seinen Möglichkeiten, mit den Musiktraditionen des alten Kontinents in Beziehung zu treten. Kaum jemand weiß das besser als die Engländerin June Tabor. Seit Jahrzehnten ist sie eine der Gallionsfiguren der britischen Folkwelt. Eine Künstlerin, die mit viel Verstand und Gefühl die Balladen aus der britischen Tradition mit modernem Songwriting, mit Tango und manchmal auch mit dem amerikanischen Jazzrepertoire zusammenbringt. Dass die intensive Tabor für diesen Ansatz gern wandlungsfähige Jazzmusiker als Begleiter wählt, liegt nahe. So auch hier – mit Pianist Huw Warren und Saxophonist Iain Ballamy spielen zwei renommierte Vertreter der Jazzszene des UK neben June Tabor – das Ergebnis ist herausragend. […] Es ist sicherlich ein Klischee, in der Musikwelt von ‚kongenialer Zusammenarbeit' zu sprechen – hier trifft es wirklich zu. Tabors Stimme und Warrens Piano erklingen mit der Sicherheit eines jahrzehntelang erarbeiteten gemeinsamen Tonfalls, das Saxophon Ballamys bringt eine zusätzliche Stimme und Klangfarbe ins Gespräch – mal lyrisch, mal tänzelnd, mit höchster Sensibilität für die Aura des konzentrierten Vortrags. Genau das ist die Kunst von June Tabor: jede Silbe und jede Zeile wird erfüllt mit Bedeutung, mit einer gewissen Strenge wacht die britische Perfektionistin über jede Nuance. Wer ihr folgt, wird fortgetragen aus dem Hier und Jetzt, in eine besondere Welt. Eine Welt voller Bedeutung und Schönheit.
Harald Mönkedieck, Radio Bremen

Folk und Jazz sind zwei verschiedene Genres? Man möchte es kaum glauben, wenn man diesen drei Musikern, die so wunderbar auf einer Welle funken, bei ihren Exkursionen folgt. Frisch Komponiertes säumt den Weg, aber auch Klangkunst mit Jahrhunderte alten Wurzeln. Auch diesen Gegensatz bemerkt man übrigens nicht, wenn man der Performance lauscht. Denn die drei Feingeister aus Großbritannien haben die Harmonie nicht nur ganz oben auf ihre musikalische Werteskala gesetzt. Sie besitzen auch das Geschick, dieses Ziel mit Leben zu füllen. Ein Balladenprogramm von ungewöhnlichem, zeitlosem Zauber ist das Resultat. Quercus - das sind die erfahrene und stilistisch sehr flexible britische Folk-Sängerin June Tabor, der improvisationsfreudige Engländer Iain Ballamy, der mit seinen Saxophonen unter anderem im Trancejazz-Duo Food (‚Mercurial Balm’) brilliert, und der Waliser Huw Warren, der am Flügel einer Romantik ohne Sentimentalität huldigt. Diese drei nun mäandern souverän zwischen Liedform und Skizze, geben Eigenes zum Besten (‚Near But Far Away’ oder ‚Teares’, inspiriert durch John Dowland) oder machen sich historisches Material zu eigen (‚As I Roved Out’, ‚Lassie Lie Near Me’, ‚Come Away Death’), ohne – siehe oben – im Entferntesten altertümlich zu klingen.
Matthias Inhoffen, Stereoplay

Hier sind keine Folkies am Werk. Ballamy kommt von Django Bates und Bill Bruford’s Earthworks; heute leitet er mit Thomas Strønen das experimentelle Projekt Food. Quercus (lat.: Eiche) ist also ein Trio, das von britischen Folk-Roots aus bis in die feinen Verästelungen zeitgemäßer Improvisationsmusik vordringt. […] Faszinierend, wie sich Ballamys weiches Tenorsaxofon an June Tabors Stimme schmiegt, wenn beide a capella Shakespeare ‚singen’, bis das Klavier einsteigt (‚Come Away Death’). Ganz pur, ganz ohne Begleitung gibt Tabor ein Traditional (‚Brigg Fair’), und für einen Moment möchte man nichts hören als nur diese Stimme.
Berthold Klostermann, Stereo

Dass die Texte unter anderem auf Autoren wie Robert Burns oder William Shakespeare zurückgehen, spielt hier überhaupt keine Rolle. Denn Tabor, Warren und Ballamy skizzieren einen Space aus, der sich von zeitlicher und räumlicher Verortung nahezu freimacht. Äußere Koordinaten zählen nicht mehr, es geht ausschließlich um das dunkle Leuchten, das die drei Protagonisten untereinander entfachen. Hier hallt ein Echo aus dem tiefen Schlund unseres kulturellen Unterbewusstseins wider, dessen genaue Herkunft sich in ihrer mannigfaltigen Brechung nicht bestimmen lässt und wohl auch nicht bestimmt werden will. Folklore, Spätrenaissance, Romantik, Jazz und Pop fließen auf spektakulär unspektakuläre Weise zusammen. Diese Lieder sind einfach da und bedürfen keiner Erklärung. Sie sind einladend, hypnotisch und schön. Was will man mehr?
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthing

‘Quercus’ is a refined, elegant and dark live recording that pairs renowned British singer June Tabor with saxophonist Iain Ballamy—already known to ECM audiences for his electro-centric collaboration with Norwegian percussionist Thomas Stronen in Food, last heard on ‘Mercurial Balm’ (2012)—and pianist Huw Warren, who like Tabor is making his first ECM appearance here. [...]Tabor's reputation as a serious singer who'll not take on a song unless it completely resonates with her on some level means that the song selection which has been key to her success since emerging in the mid-'70s with Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior in Silly Sisters—a perfect pairing if ever there was one—is just as essential to Quercus' achievements. The opening ‘Lassie Lie Near Me’, a traditional tune with lyrics from the pen of poet Robert Burns, may be, at its core, a love song, but its minor-keyed structure and Tabor's delivery ensure its painful longing remains intact. Tabor is not a singer to take great liberties with a melody; instead, her interpretive skills are far subtler—the slightest inflection or barest turn of phrase carrying great weight, even when delivered at a near-whisper, and her earthen, low-register range adding even further to its gravitas. [...] Harry Warren's ‘This is Always’ is Quercus' most overtly jazz-centric, optimistic and downright schizophrenic tune: Ballamy's opening solo is filled with unexpected fire, bolstered by Warren's propulsive support, only to slow to a halt for Tabor's entry and a shift to her rubato deliver of Mack Gordon's romantic lyrics, only to return, once again, to the intro's more energetic feel for the coda, which resumes once Tabor has finished singing. Much of Quercus' eleven-song, hour-long program is predicated on such contrast, with Tabor acting as the focal point around which her partners' improvisational forays ultimately rally.
John Kelman, AllAboutJazz