Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

16

Zara McFarlane: If You Knew Her

Phil Barnes By

Sign in to view read count
In the current short term, fast buck, major label A&R climate Brownswood stand out like a beacon for the way that they back and develop their artists. Perhaps the different ethos comes from the top, Gilles Peterson is the label boss after all, but in any event less sensitive hands might not have allowed a talent as great as Zara McFarlane to develop after her promising, solid, yet not especially high selling debut Until Tomorrow from 2011.

Peterson's previous label 'Talkin' Loud' were responsible, lest we forget, for some of the finest jazz influenced soul records of the last 25 years—think of the landmark Road to Freedom by the Young Disciples, or Creating Patterns by 4Hero, or even Nu Yorican Soul's eponymous one-off project, to name but three. McFarlane appears to appreciate the way that her label have handled her career and has spoken warmly of the willingness of Peterson to help her realize her vision. The most obvious example of this is that it was apparently Peterson's suggestion to collaborate with Matthew Halsall, who orchestrated a superlative version of "Angie La La" featuring several of his band and a spellbinding duet with Leron Thomas over a propulsive rhythm.

The song was originally written by reggae producer Duke Reid for Nora Dean and is one of a trio of excellent covers that are a useful signpost to McFarlane's key musical inspirations. Of the others "Plain Gold Ring" is the most straightforward broadly following the memorable version by the young Nina Simone, yet finding space for some fine multitracked vocal harmonies along the way. The track getting all of the attention, however, is the killer cover of Junior Murvin's roots classic "Police and Thieves." McFarlane keeps the melody and moral, observational, tone of Murvin's original lyric in her vocal but adds a fabulous understated jazz swing underneath that takes the song into a completely different musical context. In its way this is as different and radical a reinterpretation of the original as the Clash's 1977 garage band cover, but maybe you just have to have a song that good in the first place. Mention must also be made of a fabulous tenor saxophone solo courtesy of Binker Golding that lifts the performance adding energy to the mix at just the right moment.



None of this would matter a jot had McFarlane not so emphatically delivered the goods on the rest of this wonderful record. The gorgeous "Her Eyes" has that classic Young Disciples feel, perhaps also recalling what 4Hero might have sounded like unplugged; others, such as "You'll Get Me In Trouble" or the narrative ballad "Woman of the Olive Groves," showcase a versatility in both writing and vocal style that balance the collection well.

The glue that holds the collection together throughout these different settings is McFarlane's wonderfully expressive and soulful voice. Ultimately this is a record that you can listen to again and again, one that harks back to a world where soul took inspiration from jazz and not auto-tune. I rather think that 2014 has its first classic.

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).

Title: If You Knew Her | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Brownswood Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Radio
Album Reviews
Profiles
Album Reviews
Read more articles
East Of The River Nile

East Of The River Nile

Brownswood Recordings
2019

buy
Arise!

Arise!

Brownswood Recordings
2017

buy
Arise

Arise

Brownswood Recordings
2017

buy
If You Knew Her

If You Knew Her

Brownswood Recordings
2014

buy
 

Angie La La (Yoruba...

Brownswood Recordings
2013

buy
 

More Than Mine

Brownswood Recordings
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read Sheer Reckless Abandon Album Reviews
Sheer Reckless Abandon
By John Kelman
May 19, 2019
Read Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ the Z Album Reviews
Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ the Z
By Jack Bowers
May 19, 2019
Read To My Brothers Album Reviews
To My Brothers
By Victor L. Schermer
May 19, 2019
Read Social Music Album Reviews
Social Music
By Roger Farbey
May 19, 2019
Read Circle Inside The Folds Album Reviews
Circle Inside The Folds
By John Eyles
May 18, 2019
Read Momentum Album Reviews
Momentum
By Jerome Wilson
May 18, 2019
Read Bonsai Club Album Reviews
Bonsai Club
By Roger Farbey
May 18, 2019