VOTI - voices of the industry







Zara McFarlane is one of this country’s most affecting vocalists, someone whose technical abilities are matched to a deep of feeling that few can rival.



We are excited to share with you Zara McFarlane, a multi-award-winning singer-songwriter and leading UK jazz vocalist. Zara releases her new album ‘Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan‘ on 14th June. The album honours the jazz great who inspired her on her own artistic journey and whose centenary year is marked in 2024.


Nicknamed ‘sassy’ or the ‘Divine One’, Sarah Vaughan was revered not just for her incomparable vocal range, but for the depth, control, emotion and playfulness of her voice. A pioneering woman who brought bebop to vocal jazz, her contemporaries marvelled at Sarah Vaughan’s enviable musicianship and subsequent generations of jazz vocalists have been inspired by her.


Listen to the first single taken from the stunning album, ‘The Mystery Of Man‘, which was released on April 3rd:



The Mystery of Man originally appeared on Sarah Vaughan’s 1984 album, The Planet Is Alive…Let it Live, an unusual project featuring the philosophical poems of Pope John II translated by Gene Lees. Magnificently arranged by Zara’s collaborator Giacomo Smith, the song features Zara’s passionate, soaring voice and layered harmonies accompanied by Smiths’ bass clarinet, looped using traditional tape. The result is an epic track of immense power and spirituality.



Sweet Whispers’ is more than a run-through of some of Vaughan’s most popular songs. It’s not hard to imagine the immense task in selecting those songs, after all, Vaughan’s recording career spanned 50 years notching up almost 60 albums (plus nearly 30 again in compilations and box sets). Through a thoughtfully chosen selection of songs, formed across months in collaboration with producer, and the album’s clarinettist and saxman, Giacomo SmithZara journeys through the musical life of Sarah Vaughan, from her first to last recording, bringing to life and breathing new life into some of her best and less familiar songs. But importantly, the songs that mean the most to Zara.


Zara McFarlane said:


It was when I started to listen to Sarah Vaughan that I really began to appreciate jazz vocals. She had such control across her range and a vocal command that was cheeky, playful and fun yet sophisticated and articulate. I really wanted to pay homage to her as I feel she has been somewhat overlooked amongst the jazz singers. Although I do love Ella and Billie, it’s all about Sarah for me.


Of all her catalogue, Mean to Me is Zara’s favourite Sarah Vaughan song. Appearing on her 1950 debut, the song showcases her technical prowess and bebop leanings. Just as Vaughan did before her, Zara’s swinging version is imbued with emotion and soul and a deft presentation of her stunning jazz voice.


In 1972, one year after the release of the original, Sarah Vaughan covered Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues. Just as Vaughan’s straight up soul-funk version serves as a reminder of Vaughn’s versatility, Zara’s exceptional brazen, bluesy version does the same.


Elsewhere, Zara provides a superb rendition of Obsession taken from Vaughan’s last studio album, 1987’s Brazilian Romance featuring Milton Nascimento. The addition of steel pans provides a nod to Zara’s Caribbean roots.


The collection includes one original, the title track Sweet Whispers, a divine, short but touching hymn-like ballad swathed in cello, inspired by quotations from Sarah Vaughan uncovered by Zara on the creative journey. With a soft, beguiling voice, this is Zara’s sonic love letter to her inspirational jazz pioneer.



Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan’ was recorded analogue at Durham Studios, London. Giacomo assembled a stellar cast of musicians – Joe Webb on piano, Ferg Ireland on double bass, Jas Kayser on drums, Marlon Hibbert on Steel Pan and Gabriella Swallow on cello – to record 11 tracks live to tape; with minimal overdubs, the recording has retained a live, vintage feel.


A celebration of Sarah Vaughan could be in no better hands than that of Zara McFarlane, who makes an inspired homage to the ‘Divine One’. Beautifully performed in Zara’s own inimitable style, with her own playful swoops and slides, she has added her own touch to the music. With a silken voice and timbre that brings emotional depth, attitude and personality to this collection of Sarah Vaughan songs, this is a masterful celebration.


Hear Zara LIVE:


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