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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quercus: The Sage: Saturday April 27

June Tabor (vocals); Iain Ballamy (tenor sax); Huw Warren (piano)
(Review by Ann Alex).
This was an unusual and enjoyable concert with mixed influences of jazz and folk – I noticed some adherents of both traditions among the audience, and I'd love to see other people’s observations in the comments box below.  The two lower levels of Hall 2 were almost full, the band entered all dressed in black, and Ms Tabor struck up with the folk love song Brigg Fair, beautiful unaccompanied singing in a rich low voice.  It wasn't long before the jazz element entered, in the form of wonderful sax from Iain Ballamy, with his flowing melodies, including those breathy, throaty sounds that saxes do, and also well controlled high notes.  Of Huw Warren on the keys, I simply need to say that he played adventurously with great skill which matched the songs well.
I've been listening to these songs performed traditionally for ages, so it was strange to hear them done with jazz accompaniment, but it’s definitely something I could get used to. There was in fact a rich variety of songs and tunes, including a song about a poachers’ protest movement (very different from jazz themes!) How Insensitive, sung very sensitively and jazz-like (she should do a jazz album); the Shakespearian song Come, Come Away Death in an original arrangement; an exciting original tune Strawberries, with fragmented, staccato sax; and Dylan’s Don't Think Twice to round off the first half.
During the interval a jazz friend told me that she'd actually cried during the sad songs, so I reckon that’s the sign of a good performance.  The first few songs in the second half were well done, but there were a lot of dark songs together and it would have been good to have a jazz standard among them to lighten the atmosphere.  There was a Housman poem from the Shropshire Lad collection set to music and a song about a man shot in Belfast; but later came lighter material in the form of Les Barker (folk poet) words set to music; a lively tune from the musicians called Pig; a beautiful modern version of an old John Dowland tune from Huw called Tears, and Robert Burns Lassie Lie Near Me.  The well-deserved encore was a song with Les Barker Lyrics All I Ask Of You, a sort of love song mantra with superb accompaniment involving lots of tricky key changes, some of them in mid-phrase.  Clever stuff!
Ann Alex 

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

This was a concert full of colour - and that colour was black. From the black stage set, to the group members clothes to the darkness in Hall 2, to the songs of death, despair, disappointment and doom, all was black, Only the white keys on the piano stood out against the darkness.
But as a musical experience it was wonderful - such emotional death, passionate despair, epic disappointment and glorious doom.
June Tabor's unaccompanied opening song seared the darkness and had a timeless quality. It could have been an ageless woman singing to a few friends in the kitchen of a candle-lit cottage somewhere. Tabor was channelling tradition and the effect was stunning. Then the unfolding improvisations of the piano and saxophone adding a rich textural depth.
The selection of songs was diverse and challenging. Jobim's How Insensitive re-configured as a Bergman-like feeling of regret, Don't Think Twice It's Alright as a hopeless bitterness for mistakes made (and many others -see below).

If Beckett plays were ever turned into a musical this is probably what it would be like. No moment wasted or taken too seriously. Perfectly executed tunes, exquisitely chosen chords, notes and syllables, and spaces and silences eloquently located. Every repetition saying something different.
June Tabor told a story of a teenager going into a record shop and picking up a copy of her first album and asking the shop assistant what it was like. 'A bit dark and miserable' was the reply and the boy said with glee 'I'll have it'. The music is still dark but illuminated by flashes of humour, love and acceptance. I'll have it!
JC

PS - Thanks to the BSH reviewer for going through the songs from this gig as, for the first time I can remember at the Sage, the sound wasn't perfect. While I could mostly hear the singing quite well, it was difficult to hear June Tabor's introduction and explanation of the songs (and when you don't know them that's an important part of the whole experience). I kept having to whisper to my accompanist for clarification - 'Cheese-makers? Did she say she was going to sing a song about cheese-makers? 'Shussh, will you!'

Tyne Valley Jazz Man said...

I did wonder if the full black regalia were a contractual obligation with ECM!

The CD is worth a spin (many of the items from the Sage gig are on it). There is an interesting article on Quercus in the April issue of Jazzwise Magazine (http://jazzwisemagazine.com/feature-table-mainmenu-134/12675-quercus-floating-point)

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