Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Zara McFarlane: It’s a new day, it’s a new dawnâ€Â¦ for UK jazz

Zara McFarlane
Zara McFarlane

Zara Mcfarlane breaks many stereotypes. Blessed with a soulful, sassy and sophisticated voice she has bucked the trend and rather than aim for the commercial world in some pop or indeed RnB genre, she has lent her voice to the world of jazz; in this current climate young singers are drawn to the commercial world like moths to a 60 watt light bulb...

Furthermore rather than being some brooding rather morose jazz singer she is buoyant and laughs with a regularity that is infectious. Of course you do not have to be morose to be a jazz singer and I think that is clearly my own misconceptions of jazz but Zara is clear to state that she hopes that in part she can change the views of Jazz music particularly in the UK.

UK jazz music needs less elitismâ€Â¦

The problem with jazz music in this country is that it is seen as a white form of music, which is not the case - it’s MORE popular with white artists and white audiences. Black people do not seem to seek out the jazz music and gigs. When I studied jazz there was a big theoretical focus and that is not what the music is about. That is still very important but it has become a bit institutional, so you have to study at these top schools to learn it and not all black people can maybe afford to go to these schools. Jazz music was not a form of music you learnt, it was very much a social thing and people from all walks of life just hung out - maybe that is missing right now.

Why the love for jazz?

It’s so interesting when I first got into jazz music I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald, she is great, I just kept gathering more of her repertoire. You have so many things in jazz; you have the swing era, big band era, b-bop module - which can be really difficult! The more you listen to jazz and understand it and where it is coming from, the more you appreciate it. Jazz spans the whole of the century really.

“I fell into jazz really”

I applied to a lot of competitions, I did a talented teens competition when I was fourteen, I was in Stars In Your Eyes. I was always trying to get into music and jazz music, I suppose I fell into jazz really. I studied musical theatre at the Brit School of Performing Arts when I was eighteen, then when I went to uni one of my teachers was a pianist, he heard me and felt I was good. So I would go gigging with him and sing with him, and so I got more involved in the jazz repertoire.

People say things like "I don't really like jazz music but I like your music."

A lot of people say things like 'I don't really like Jazz music but I like your music' and 'I like your album.' People outside of the jazz are listening to me and listening to other artists and there are a lot of young black people out there that are doing things. I was looking to make an album about ten years ago but now I have been able to make it - I am so happy! More hard work touring Europe Belgium, Portugal which takes me up to November and I will be writing new music for the next album.

Zara McFarlane's new album "Until Tomorrow" is out now on Brownswood

Words Semper Azeez-Harris

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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