Zara McFarlane – Arise

Released through Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings, the third album from this London based MOBO award nominated songwriter, producer, and singer is something of an exploration into the Jamaican diaspora.  Perhaps buoyed by the success of her previous records,  McFarlane seems happy to progress into more diverse territory here as she confidently infuses contemporary jazz with Caribbean music forms, straddling continents and eras to produce a sound that’s refreshingly organic and unforced.

As music journalist Lloyd Bradley explains, ‘The album sets off on a mission to explore vintage and traditional Jamaican music –kumina, mento, ska, rocksteady and reggae – yet it does it through the prism of contemporary black London culture, intrinsically shifting the musical results’.

McFarlane is joined once again by musicians she’s worked with since coming up through Tomorrow’s Warriors, the pioneering music education organisation and stable for UK jazz talent: saxophonist Binker Golding, Clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings (of The Comet Is Coming) and in particular, drummer Moses Boyd (who shares with McFarlane a Caribbean family heritage); Boyd also co-produced the record as a whole and has writing credits on several tracks.

Although most of the material is original, one of the notable things about McFarlane as an artist is her ability to compose songs that sound fresh whilst also possessing a classic quality.  In places her arrangements are noticeably influenced by the gorgeous vocal harmonies of roots reggae groups such as The Abyssinians and The Congos, and a cover of the latter act’s Fisherman is one of the record’s sparkling highlights.

McFarlane has mentioned the strong sensory experience of being in Jamaica and this is something that comes through in her music, which has a transportive effect: you get the sense that the judiciously arranged instrumentation, which is simultaneously exquisitely detailed and expansive, has been carefully built around McFarlane’s stunning voice to take the listener somewhere that, whilst filled with elements from the lineage of jazz and Caribbean music, is located primarily in our imaginations.

Zara McFarlane – Arise CD

Click & Collect; Buy now and collect in-store at your convenience


Zara McFarlane – Arise LP

Click & Collect; Buy now and collect in-store at your convenience


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