On her full-length follow up to 2010's EP Until Tomorrow, London-based singer Zara McFarlane perfects her blend of austere instrumentation and mantra-like rhythms supporting her rich and warm voice that owe more to Mongo Santamaria than reputedly Nina Simone or Roberta Flack. An album centerpiece, "Woman in the Olive Groves" undulates like "Afro Blue" while being able to act as its logical prelude. Backed by a traditional rhythm trio, McFarlane fulfills the potential of her subtle and muscular voice which sets perfectly against Brinker Golding's obtuse and probing tenor saxophone solo. Pianist Peter Edwards sinks McCoy Tyner chords into the ground like tent poles erected for elemental cover. It is this brief and honest instrumental and vocal simplicity that McFarlane, in her compositions, brings to this modern amalgam of jazz and soul.
McFarlane's voice swells to the challenge of sparse instrumentation. She capitalizes on the music's pulse, that necessary element propelling this collection of sweetly opaque songs forward. On "Move" McFarlane sings of motion and strength among uncertainty, motion provided by the shimmer of Edwards' right melodic hand tacked down by his precise left. The sole non-original composition is Junior Murvin's 1977 "Police & Thieves," later covered by the Clash. McFarlane takes the song far afield of Murvin's original Jah-happy rebellion and the Clash's boiling mercury version into the blended jazz-soul terrain of 21st Century London. A gentle heart is Zara McFarlane's, one that burns in a low smolder of creation.
Track Listing: Open Heart; Her Eyes; Move; You’ll Get Me In Trouble; Police & Thieves;
Spinning Wheel; Plain Gold Ring; Angie La La; The Games We Played; Woman
in the Olive Groves; Love.
Personnel: Zara McFarlane: vocals (all), piano (6), guitar (4); Peter Edwards:
piano (2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11); Gavin Barras: Bass (1, 8); Max Luthert:
bass (2, 3, 5, 7, 10); Moses Boyd: drums (3, ; Andy Chapman: drums (2,
10); Taz Modi: drums (8); Binker Golding: tenor saxophone (10); Leron
Thomas: trumpet (8); Rachel Gladwin: harp (8).
I was first exposed to jazz as a baby. When I was a child, my parents regularly played classic jazz, i.e., Fitzgerald, Hawkins, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Montgomery, Silver, etc. I vividly remember sitting in front of the stereo as a kid, rocking back and forth to jazz, so the music is embedded in me
I was first exposed to jazz as a baby. When I was a child, my parents regularly played classic jazz, i.e., Fitzgerald, Hawkins, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Montgomery, Silver, etc. I vividly remember sitting in front of the stereo as a kid, rocking back and forth to jazz, so the music is embedded in me. As a life-long jazz lover, I eventually became a jazz educator and producer/host of a very popular jazz radio program in Los Angeles, California.
I love jazz because it is so free. I can think, feel, and dream to jazz, and it allows my mind to flow and expand, musically and otherwise. I also love jazz because it, much like other forms of music, allows opportunities to bring people from all walks of life together. What makes jazz more significant to me, though, is its historical significance; that is, how jazz served, in part, as a method of bringing communities together, a cultural/social/spiritual conduit.