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Zara McFarlane: Sweet Whispers review

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    Posted: 07 Jun 2024 at 10:30am

Zara McFarlane: Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan review – terrific tribute to a jazz legend (Eternal Source of Light/!K7 Records)

 ZARA MCFARLANE - Sweet Whispers : Celebrating Sarah Vaughan cover

The British jazz singer pays homage to Vaughan with earthiness and spontaneity: an animated reinvention of these classics   

The great African American double bass player Richard Davis used to note that it had been “the university of Sarah Vaughan” – his life on the road from 1957-63 with the jazz singer dubbed The Divine One – that taught him everything worth knowing about timing, improvisation and making every sound count.

Vaughan’s range and breath control, effortlessly cool spontaneity, and the telling punctuation of her phrasing have inspired all manner of singers for 60 years or more, and still do – including Mobo award-winning vocalist Zara McFarlane. In Vaughan’s centenary year, McFarlane brings personal muses drawn from London’s multi-stylistic music scene and her own Jamaican heritage to bear on 10 Vaughan classics and one original.

Accompanied by a crisply hip quartet led by former Kansas Smitty’s House Band reeds hotshot Giacomo Smith, and including young drums star Jas Kayser, she begins her fifth album with the early Vaughan hits Tenderly and Mean to Me, and continues with a song from the legend’s last studio recording – Obsession, from 1987’s Brazilian Romance.

McFarlane doesn’t mimic her idol, but her resonant low tones and airily skittish upper range reflect Vaughan’s immense technical and emotional arc, while the band impart both a generic perspective on the past, and bring a springy contemporary animation to its reinvention. McFarlane’s note-bends and plummeting long sounds pay homage to Vaughan’s bewitched 1947 version of Tenderly; Mean to Me almost offhandedly catches the resigned confusion of a controlling partner’s victim; and Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (recorded by Vaughan in 1971) is a stealthy soul-groover that suits McFarlane’s earthiness perfectly. Her church-music youth fuels the gospel-y gallop of Great Day, a rhythmically jagged urgency drives Obsession, and McFarlane’s own hymnally reverential Sweet Whispers closes out a fine reminder of both her own open-minded musicality, and her model’s precious legacy.

from www.theguardian.com

Edited by snobb - 07 Jun 2024 at 10:32am
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