ZARA McFARLANE: Visions from the Eastside, Back-a-Yard Reflections and Meditations on a MOBO

Dropped into the BME at the 02 last night. Along with a hundred-or -so  other like minded souls I enjoyed a nicely structured discussion on the impact The Wailers 1973 debut LP for Island Records – ‘Catch A Fire’ – has had on the world as we know it. Sensitively chaired by Kevin Legendre and featuring a panel that included Aswad’s Brinsley Forde, Jazz Jamaica’s Gary Crosby and the albums remix studio engineer Tony Platt, they gave an illuminating, if at times contentious, insight into the momentum this seminal album provided for the global reggae revolution which ensued.

The discussion was followed by an open workshop intended to give us a taste of what is to come when Lively Up! goes on the road this Autumn with their 30 piece Jazz Jamaica big band,  a string section and, in some places,  a choir. Their task, or that of arranger/saxophonist, Jason Yarde,  is to deliver a mind-blowing interpretation of ‘Catch A Fire’  and knowing Jason and Gary Crosby I think that’s pretty much guaranteed.

In the vocal harmony section of the rehearsal, alongside a natty Valerie Etienne, was Zara Mcfarlane  who had just been nominated for a MOBO. Not surprisingly, she was pretty thrilled with the news.

I first met Zara last October, at the launch of her album, ‘Until Tomorrow’. Being on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint has provided a global launch pad for this young singer and that, along with a vibrant live stage presence has earned her a growing rep. In recent times she has supported the godfather South African jazz and funk  – Hugh Masekela – and duetted with The Voice of the moment – Gregory Porter and with her own band Zara continues to operate in a fluid and organic  fashion between the twin worlds of contemporary jazz and eclectic nu-soul.

In tune with her touring the UK with Lively Up! I though it appropriate to flag up her unique take on Junior Murvin’s classic ‘Police & Thieves’. Enjoy the vid and if you are diggin’ Zara McFarlane’s voice and vision you can vote for her here:

http://www.mobo.com/voting/best-jazz-act

About Paul Brad

Freelance journalist / Publisher Editor - Straight No Chaser magazine & From Jazz Funk & Fusion to Acid Jazz: A History Of The UK Jazz dance Scene by Mark 'Snowboy' Cotgrove / Music Fan: Interplanetary Sounds: Ancient to Future / Cultural Event Consultant & Activist / Nei Jia practitioner
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