Quercus - Quercus (3 stars)

Quercus - Quercus

June Tabor and Huw Warren collaboration blending jazz and folk tradition


The great English folk singer June Tabor has been working with Welsh pianist Huw Warren for several years, most notably on her 2011 album Ashore. Now, under the Quercus umbrella, the pair is joined by saxophonist Iain Ballamy, best known for his Food duo with Thomas Strønen. This live set has been given ECM's pristine, reverb-lacquered sound, and, as is often the case with releases on Manfred Eicher's label, the lack of grit can prove soporific.

The album is at its best when Tabor delves into the folk tradition, her deep, seasoned alto lending gravitas to Shakespeare's dark incantation 'Come Away Death' and Robert Burns' 'Lassie Lie Near Me'. Warren and Ballamy's translations of such material into Garbarek-inflected modal jazz are, while a little smooth for some tastes, quite beautiful. Tabor's austere, understated approach suits the jazz standards, but modern-day hymn 'All I Ask of You' is all too pious.