June Tabor, Iain Ballamy, Huw Warren


‘Quercus’ means ‘oak’ in Latin and the roots of this particular tree dig deep into British folk music, while leaves and branches reach upward to embrace jazz-inspired lyrical improvising. The trio features the venerable English singer June Tabor whose dark voice has an uncanny ability to underscore the emotional essence of a ballad: “As I get older, I understand more the depths of sorrow and joy that made the song”, she has said. Tabor, who was recently voted BBC Folk Awards Singer Of The Year, is joined in the Quercus project by Welsh jazz pianist and composer Huw Warren, and by English saxophonist Iain Ballamy, well-known to ECM listeners as co-leader of the band Food. This is the first Quercus album but the trio has existed already for seven years, patiently developing its unique idiomatic blend.

‚Quercus’ bedeutet im Lateinischen ‚Eiche’ – und die Wurzeln dieses speziellen Baums reichen tief in die britische Folkmusik hinab,  seine Zweige und Blätter aber richten sich aufwärts, um jazz-inspiriertes lyrisches Improvisieren zu umfassen.
Das Trio featuret die geachtete englische Sängerin June Tabor, die mit ihrer dunklen Stimme die emotionale Essenz einer Ballade auf fast schon unheimliche Art zu verstärken vermag: „Je älter ich werde, desto mehr verstehe ich die Tiefe der Sorgen und Freuden, die einen Song ausmachen“, hat sie einmal gesagt. Tabor, die kürzlich mit einem BBC Folk Award als Sängerin des Jahres ausgezeichnet wurde,  arbeitet im Projekt Quercus mit dem walisischen Jazzpianisten und Komponisten Huw Warren und dem englischen Saxophonisten Iain Ballamy zusammen, die ECM-Hörern als co-Leader der Band Food wohl vertraut sind. Dies ist das erste Quercus-Album, das Trio entwickelt  seine einzigartige, idiomatische Musikmischung allerdings schon seit sieben Jahren.
Featured Artists Recorded

March 2006, Anvil, Basingstoke

Original Release Date


  • 1Lassie Lie Near Me
    (Robert Burns, Traditional)
  • 2Come Away Death
    (William Shakespeare, Iain Ballamy, Traditional)
  • 3As I Roved Out
  • 4The Lads In Their Hundreds
    (A. E. Housman, George Butterworth)
  • 5Teares
    (Huw Warren)
  • 6Near But Far Away
    (June Tabor, Traditional, Iain Ballamy)
  • 7Brigg Fair
  • 8Who Wants The Evening Rose
    (Les Barker, Yosef Hadar)
  • 9This Is Always
    (Mack Gordon, Harry Warren)
  • 10A Tale From History (The Shooting)
    (David Ballantine)
  • 11All I Ask Of You
    (Gregory Norbet, Les Barker)
The trio Quercus delivers profound and moving interpretations of traditional and non-traditional song on its debut album, approaching the heart of the material by unorthodox routes. In this unique group, the dark voice of the great English folksinger June Tabor is framed and supported by the quietly adventurous arrangements and subtle improvisations of Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren. Warren has worked with Tabor for 25 years already and made important contributions to her albums. “His piano”, The Guardian has observed, “has teased out the deeper autumnal colours in Tabor’s range.” The nature of their association in Quercus is different, however. This is very much a collaborative band. Together and from different vantage points singer, saxophonist and pianist explore the emotional core of the songs. Most importantly, the songs and the words are respected as instrumental skills and melodic imaginations are harnessed to illuminate them.

The first part of “Come Away Death”, for instance, based upon Shakespeare’s text from Twelfth Night, finds Ballamy’s tenor sax chanting with the vocal line. “One of the things I’m trying to do in Quercus”, Ballamy says, “is to make one sound with June’s voice. It’s a matter of tone and precise control of volume. When you have music in tune and deeply blended at the source like that it can be very powerful in the moment. As a goal, that’s much more interesting to me than the execution of a clever solo.” The second half of the piece is Ballamy’s instrumental setting of the text, saxophone and piano dancing to an iambic beat.

In common with most of Tabor’s work, material selected does not shy from life’s big topics: death, war and betrayal are themes here, but also love, fidelity and reunion. The album opens tenderly with Robert Burns’ “Lassie Lie Near Me”, but before long the transitory nature of happiness is captured in A.E. Housman’s World War I poem “The Lads In Their Hundreds” set to George Butterworth’s music in an arrangement by Ballamy. Warren’s solo piece “Teares”, channeling Dowland, is an appropriate response…

The chamber music precision of Quercus’ performance belies the fact that it was recorded live at the end of a British tour in 2006, at the Anvil in Basingstoke. (As Ballamy recalls, “the piano was excellent, the acoustics in the hall were good, and nobody coughed.”) The tapes were mixed in Oslo in 2012 by Manfred Eicher and Jan Erik Kongshaug, together with Ballamy and Warren.