Previously a backing vocalist for artists as diverse as Soweto Kinch and Noah and the Whale, 28-year-old London jazz-soul singer Zara McFarlane's debut album, Until Tomorrow, showcases a talent that undeniably deserves to take center stage all on its own. Released through Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings label, the extension of her 2010 same-titled six-track EP (of which three tracks appear here) is an effortlessly subtle and soulful affair tailor-made for lazy Sunday mornings, which, apart from the rather superfluous rendition of The Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things," cleverly avoids drifting into MOR easy listening territory. "More Than Mine" (also featured in an "alternate take" version whose only difference is the addition of some barbershop quartet-style vocals) is a delightfully gentle jazz-pop ballad whose reflective piano chords and melancholic saxophone hooks perfectly reflect the yearning lyrical themes of seeing a past lover out with her new beau; "Captured, Pt. 3" and "Chiaroscuro" are minimal but charming rearrangements of her collaborations with dance producer Bopstar, both of which are unrecognizable from their previous vocal house incarnations; while the pounding piano chords, shuffling hi-hat rhythms, and McFarlane's swooping scale-gliding vocals on "Feed the Spirit (The Children and the Warlock)" help provide a captivating rendition of the rather obscure number from underrated jazz composer Harry Whitaker's back catalog. It's hard to see exactly where the comparisons with the likes of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott have come from, as other than the galloping percussion and R&B-tinged melodies of "Blossom Tree," its 11 tracks are very much at the modern jazz rather than the nu-soul end of the spectrum. But whatever category Until Tomorrow is filed under, it still remains a sensual and highly expressive debut from an artist who appears determined to fully grasp her opportunity in the spotlight.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien