On If You Knew Her, Zara McFarlane reworked Junior Murvin and Lee "Scratch" Perry's "Police & Thieves" and Duke Reid's Nora Dean-fronted "Angie La La," reggae classics that further exhibited the jazz vocalist's genetic and artistic connections to Jamaica. For her more adventuresome follow-up and third album overall, Arise, McFarlane digs deeper into her Afro-Caribbean roots with much of the same crew from her prior sessions, led by drummer and producer Moses Boyd with the likes of saxophonist Binker Golding and pianist Peter Edwards. This time, McFarlane and company reconfigure "Peace Begins Within" into a driving, tightly controlled post-bop groove with the singer's upper register deployed in the chorus to dazzling effect, as moving here as it is in the Dean original.
T he Mobo-winning London singer Zara McFarlane has sounded like a class act for longer than a star-fixated world might realise, and her recent output suggests that her intuitions unerringly guide her emotions toward appreciatively consensual recognition. Arise may be too long on genre music and short on improv for jazz hardliners, but for many it will be a fascinating perspective on an African Caribbean family lineage shared by McFarlane and her gifted drummer and producer Moses Boyd. McFarlane.
On her third solo album, British singer Zara McFarlane continues the tradition of her previous two projects, exploring new avenues in modern jazz.
‘Arise’ illustrates how McFarlane is one of the few artists with the ability to make jazz-soul sound current in a genre in which many stagnate in tradition. The record is driven by McFarlane’s vocal performance - simultaneously vulnerable and commanding, with this perhaps best demonstrated on project highlight ‘Fussin And Fightin’.
With ‘Arise’, the London singer continues her excellent run, delivering a refreshingly enchanting and intriguing project..