Quercus, the folk-jazz trio of singer June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy, and pianist Huw Warren, has won the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the German Record Critics’ album of the year prize, it’s just been announced. Other titles in the winning list of 11 albums selected by the judges include Rokia Traoré’s Beautiful Africa, and Peter Brötzmann’s Long Story Short.
Quercus' 11 songs took some time to be released, seven years since they were recorded in Basingstoke on a fabled piano in the town’s Anvil venue. The album was released by ECM in April.
The full expressive sound of Tabor’s voice, Iain Ballamy here and in Food recently on the form of his life, for instance in his solo on ‘Near But Far Away’, distils a life time’s work on ballads. At the end ‘All I Ask of You’ is a reminder of the moving version of the song on Balloon Man Ballamy’s first big breakthrough in the late-1980s.
Texts of the songs draw on disparate sources including Robert Burns, A. E. Housman and Shakespeare, and highlights include the lovely ‘Who Wants the Evening Rose’ where the honesty of Tabor’s voice momentarily recalling the late Kirsty MacColl is truest. Ballamy here, oak-sturdy as the genus the band itself takes its name from, intertwines his improvisations with Warren’s superbly empathetic accompaniment so appropriately. Quercus, pictured