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The New Cool: Singer Meets Drummer, Revisited

Zara McFarlane sings on Later with Jools Holland in 2014
Rex Features via AP Images
British Jazz Queen Zara McFarlane

As the modern jazz scene continues to bloom in England, a powerful young singer is gaining greater attention. With a recent cover of a classic Abbey Lincoln collaboration with Max Roach, she should be catching the ears of vintage jazz fans as well.

Born to Jamaican parents in London, Zara McFarlane is closely connected to the reggae music that's permeated most styles of modern British music for decades. It's her connection to her nation's emerging jazz musicians that's her focus, many of whom she encountered earning her masters degree in jazz studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Moses Boyd is an award-winning young British drummer and electronic musician known for collaborations with Four Tet, Gilles Peterson and Lonnie Liston Smith, as well as his own band Exodus. His style is reminiscent of electronically produced drums, skittering and busy, yet as tied to the beat as a metronome. The African-inspired source material results in a driving urgency, but Boyd avoids a mechanical feel - his touch is undeniably human.

McFarlane's new album Arise is due for a September 29th release, and on this week's New Cool show, we'll hear a preview single she just put out on ultra-hip 10" vinyl - two versions of "All Africa" featuring in-demand young drummer Moses Boyd. Skipping over the original Abbey Lincoln introduction and beginning with the recitation of various African tribal names, McFarlane's bold delivery echoes Lincoln's and Moses Boyd's syncopated drumming adds a modern dance music edge to the original tribal patterns from the 1960 recording. The result is a bit closer to the live quintet version Roach and Lincoln performed on Belgian TV in 1964.

The new album Arise stays in line with the Civil Rights theme in "All Africa", including a cover shot of McFarlane in a military green shirt and bright red beret, reminiscent of Che Guevara and radical 60's revolutionaries. The music is reportedly a varied collection, moving from soul to hard bop to the echoes of British dub. You can hear the lead single "Fussin' and Fightin'" now, and we're keeping our fingers crossed in hopes Zara McFarlane will undertake a well-earned world tour that brings her to the Northwest soon!

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.