Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Jazz vocals and best UK album of the week: Zara McFarlane, Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan, Eternal Source Of Light/!K7 Records ****

A singer who figured early on in the story so far of Ezra Collective eight years ago, sported acclaimed Dem Ones duo Binker and Moses in her own band back in the day having first impressed as a featured singer with Jazz Jamaica later scooping a …

Published: 11 Jun 2024. Updated: 37 days.

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A singer who figured early on in the story so far of Ezra Collective eight years ago, sported acclaimed Dem Ones duo Binker and Moses in her own band back in the day having first impressed as a featured singer with Jazz Jamaica later scooping a best jazz act MOBO to boot, we reckon this Sarah Vaughan tribute from the fortysomething Londoner out later this week matches Zara's best work to date, 2013's If You Knew Her.

Marking the centenary of the birth of the Divine One in Newark Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan is mature and considered and shows the incredible vocal technique at the singer's disposal in its best light also displayed to a massive TV audience singing the national anthem at the recent FA Cup final in Wembley. Giacomo Smith's arrangement and bass clarinet playing on the lead-off track also complements the ingenuity of the vocals.

The collection of songs includes a favourite of Zara's, 'Mean to Me', from Sassy's 1950 album Sarah Vaughan and after Marvin Gaye a version that follows in the footsteps of beboppers favourite Vaughan morphing stylistically to cover the 1970s era classic 'Inner City Blues'. Zara also contributes a fine original which is the title track that is totally in keeping with the classic mood. Musicians in the studio with McFarlane and Smith include pianist Joe Webb who adds the most vintage touches, bassist Ferg Ireland and drummer Jas Kayser at its core. McFarlane's Caribbean heritage isn't forgotten given the presence of a role for the steel plan playing of Marlon Hibbert.

Zara McFarlane, photo above: Kareem Abdul. Main photo: via Riotsquad 'The Mystery of Man' is streaming ahead of the full album's release on Friday

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Classic focus: Whirlpool

Handy term - the scene. What it can mean to you says as much perhaps about you as about that very thing. Projection you are thinking, dear reader, is what he's driving at here - and you would be right. The process of operating through …

Published: 11 Jun 2024. Updated: 38 days.

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whirlpool

Handy term - the scene. What it can mean to you says as much perhaps about you as about that very thing. Projection you are thinking, dear reader, is what he's driving at here - and you would be right. The process of operating through interpretation and inference, where one assigns meaning to facts based on one's own unconscious needs and prejudices. ''The hush of the sea's in the seashell,'' Malcolm Lowry wrote in his poem 'Whirlpool.'

According to Carl Jung ''everything that is unconscious in ourselves we discover in our neighbour, and we treat him accordingly. We no longer subject him to the test of drinking poison; we do not burn him or put the screws on him; but we injure him by means of moral verdicts pronounced with the deepest conviction. What we combat in him is usually our own inferior side.''

The ''scene'' is your ''scene'', your territory limits if you like. Your view of things. It is all couched in para-social terms, the thinking coined by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl discusssed in Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction Observations on Intimacy at a Distance (1956), meaning a sort of psychological relationship where an audience interacts with media personalities as if in a reciprocal relationship, despite limited real interaction.

Unless you are on the road all the time and even then you won't in terms of empirical witnessing be able to experience that much. Therefore that para-social phenomenon kicks in and you build a world by developing a relationship with the jazz icon to hand reached via listening or seeing live but just as much viewed through the lens of the media, typically the Internet. We are far more visual these days. And even if you go out more than most and see a jazz gig once or twice a week it will probably be in a limited set of places. How do you then in a serious way connect what you have witnessed with the greater whole? Of course you then enlarge upon all that and imagine what you are seeing as part of a bigger picture extrapolating more through research as prudently as you can or not.

A parochialism might intervene. Maybe it is the big city variety of metropolitan triumphalism or the twee, tidy little town bourgeois self satisfied pride variety. Each can be absurd. But it is surprising how often people rank scenes and attribute to particular ones great significance, importance, special characteristics which they feel then influences other scenes. Point of view then masquerades as fact.

The individualism of the players is we think more real than notions of the scene and would caution against a one size fits all mentality. You can't herd cats, muso or feline. And the quiet ones are often those with most to say don't you think long term especially when it comes to the creation of new items in the book of jazz standards that eventually tortoise rather than hare outlast the last note in the concert hall, last usable take from even a memorable studio session, and light up our imaginations via generation upon future generation.

Try listening to another Whirlpool - as we were doing earlier today. The work of one of those quiet ones with a lot to say whose message lingers longer than most, pianist, composer, improviser, teacher John Taylor. Sad to think that bassist Palle Danielsson - who was on this great Cam Jazz recording issued in 2007 - passed away recently less than a decade after JT himself died. Only Martin France from that remarkable recording is still with us.

Made in a German studio in 2005, with tunes like Kenny Wheeler's 'Consolation', 'Nicolette' and classic standard 'Everybody's Song But My Own,' Taylor's title track & 'The Woodcocks,' a version of the Gershwins' 'I Loves You Porgy' and Gustav Holst's 'In the Bleak Midwinter' included, the scene you harrumph, listening to this classic… what on earth? On second thoughts maybe it's better to just trust the individual vision of such velvety softness reached inside a brittle shell and park the meaninglessness of ''the scene'' in a cupboard full of old cables and other mothballed paraphernalia instead.

Turn to another quiet master and something of both a totem and ur text spiritually - Bill Evans - a big inspiration of Taylor's and 'Re: Person I Knew.'

Around before many of us where even adults or born Evans even so is someone you swear you knew… that para social thing again sparks the imagination. And you do know him in a personal way that is meaningful to you and perhaps only you in a certain sense. Thinking - manifesting, that fashionable term might even apply - may powerfully once again well be believing when translating what you are hearing into some sort of personal revelation. If the only choices going are literal and metaphorical we'd prefer the metaphorical every time.