Zara McFarlane, Palazzo Spiegeltent, Monday July 21st *****
Not since American sensation Cecile McLorin Salvant took to the same stage three years ago has such a formidable new singing talent been launched on the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Hearing Zara McFarlane on Monday night at the Spiegeltent, it was impossible not to feel that you were in the presence of a future great; the next big thing.
McFarlane has a commanding, stately stage presence. At the Spiegeltent, the young British singer gently swivelled on the spot to draw in the attention of – and effortlessly seduce – an audience that very quickly fell under her spell thank to her beautiful, clear and soulful voice, wide vocal range, and unfussy, unshowy style.
She may only be 30 years of age, but McFarlane exuded the air of an older spirit, someone who has lived, loved and lost – and her songwriting skills (most of the songs were her own compositions) made the most of that. Simple, catchy melodies combined with extraordinarily eloquent lyrics are her signature, and she has a beguiling way of painting a portrait, and evoking a situation or feelings – notably on the sultry Woman in the Olive Groves, You’ll Get Me In Trouble and the gorgeous ballad, Love.
Her very personable patter between numbers further endeared her to the enthusiastic crowd, and provided the background to her songs. More Than Mine, which was by turns funny, nightmarish and bitchy, was inspired by bumping into her ex with his new flame, and drawing comparisons. Safe to say McFarlane would have been the winner in the singing stakes …
First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 26th