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Not since Lammas has jazz and folk combined so effectively

June Tabor/Iain Ballamy/Huw Warren
Quercus
ECM ****
Straddling folk and, by association and intent, jazz, Quercus, the trio of leading folk singer June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy also of the band Food, and pianist Huw Warren (who has performed with Tabor for an astonishing 25 years) these 11 songs have taken some time to be released, seven years since they were recorded in Basingstoke on a fabled piano in the town’s Anvil venue. But it’s more than worth the wait and it’s Warren’s interplay with the full expressive sound of Tabor’s voice (like Norma Waterson’s slightly, but darker than Christine Tobin’s) that counts. Iain Ballamy here and in Food recently has been on the form of his life, and his solo for instance 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. Not since Lammas, has a folk-jazz project worked as joyously as here. Stephen Graham

Released on Monday 1 April

Quercus pictured   

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Human
Being Human
Babel **** RECOMMENDED
This is the debut release of Human, drummer and composer Stephen Davis’ new quartet. The Human sound is coloured by the violin of the maverick Dylan Bates, notable for his work with Billly Jenkins and Waiting For Dwarfs and it’s his best work to date. Human also features the talismanic presence of pianist Alexander Hawkins, and the electronicist, trumpeter Alex Bonney. ‘Little Particles’ finds Bonney In a Silent Way state of mind amid the complementary African-sounding piano and drums, with Bates resembling Leroy Jenkins in his pomp with that jagged Beckenham-derived individuality bolted on his brother Django also possesses. Hawkins is a haunting presence throughout. ‘I Am Planet’ has a rustling unsettled feel to it, with Hawkins’ three-note figure after the three-minute marking the warts-and-all groove that opens up for Davis to then move deep into multi-directional territory. ‘Cartagena’ is very different, as the clash of the drummer’s snare pumps the band up. An eloquent expression, there’s plenty of originality on Being Human. MB