Zara McFarlane: Artist You Should Know

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Young, fresh, well accomplished British new-comer Zara McFarlane approaches jazz with a special reverence to tradition and standards, while deftly tapping personal inspiration from deep spiritual jazz (think Pharaoh Sanders) and the dub and reggae of her Jamaican family roots.

It’s no surprise that Gilles Peterson took an interest in 2010 and began releasing her exquisite brand of jazz on his Brownswood label.

On her sophomore album “If You Knew Her“, Zara explores the possibilities of each track individually with a focus on songwriting and arrangement, a different path than her debut, in which her goal was a more cohesive sound. She also collaborates with featured vocalists – duets make up roughly half the record, and uses subtle adoption of aforementioned inspirations. The end result is a boldly colorful, robust sound.

Personal favorites in rotation are the tracks “Angie La La”, which features Houston bred composer / vocalist Leron Thomas, and a phenomenal cover of the late Junior Murvin reggae hit “Police and Thieves“.