In many ways an underground cult classic, Zara’s reworking of this Jamaican psych gem by Nora Dean features former Brownswood Bubblers alumnus and New Yorker Leron Thomas on trumpet and vocals. Recorded at Matthew Halsall’s 80 Hertz studio in Manchester, it’s firmly rooted in swing territory, driven by the killer rhythm section of Luke Flowers (drums) and Gavin Barras (double bass). Zara herself reclines into the groove with consummate grace, her vocals blessed at once with crystalline clarity and warmth.
Consistently one of our favourite producers from the house realm, the truly legendary Osunlade aka Yoruba Soul applies his golden touch to ‘Angie La La’, crafting an exquisitely sensitive and soulful groove founded on booming kicks and handclaps.
Zara McFarlane inhabits a less trodden musical landscape. Her performance brings to mind a vocal world more akin to early Nina Simone and Roberta Flack’s ‘First Take’, than to Ella and the great American songbook. Many of her tunes possess power and an underlying spirituality reminiscent of the ‘spiritual jazz’ movement of 70’s black America. Indeed, the fact that McFarlane was selected to perform alongside jazz star Gregory Porter at last year’s breathtaking Nina Simone tribute concerts (in the Netherlands) makes total sense. Like Porter, Zara is a thoughtful, uniquely engaging artist who combines the intricacies of jazz with a deep soulfulness that seamlessly blends multiple black influences.