Zara McFarlane is the London based singer, who, in 2011 released Until Tomorrow, a debut album that had many critics in a spin. Sure, praise came thick and fast. They spoke of a caressing voice of sparkling clarity, a voice that was warm and powerful, and of a singer who sang with childlike innocence and womanly assertiveness in equal measure. But perhaps what critics missed amongst the hail of praise, is something altogether different - the arrival of an original songwriter and performer of true stature. For McFarlane, it's about her point of difference. What sets her apart isn't her voice, distinctive as it is, but what she has to say as, and how she says it.
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 years 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.
Her unique crystalline voice and finesse of her delivery stems from both a natural gift and years of formal study at a very high standard. She studied Popular Music & Performance at Thames Valley University and holds a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies attained at the Guildhall School of Music. Prior to the release of her debut, she made a string of impressive appearances with musicians such as Soweto Kinch, Denys Baptiste, Orphy Robinson, and the Jazz Jamaica All Stars. In 2012 and 2013 Zara toured her album in the UK and Europe, with memorable performances including support slots for the likes of the godfather of South African jazz and funk, Hugh Masekela, and voice of the moment Gregory Porter. She was also nominated for a MOBO in the Best Jazz Act category 2012