@ the Hideaway, Pizza On The Park,
PizzaExpress Jazz Club, Jazz
Photography 26 November 2011 - 22 August 2005
Click an image to enlarge.
Frank McComb has the potential to completely re-arrange the
telephone book, your shopping list and my wanted record list, then
sing them all – and somehow make it all sound soulful! However,
McComb’s stuttering musical journey seems to be having an
effect on his creative output (from a recording perspective as well
as the live touring circuit in the UK). McComb’s determination
to ‘do it all himself’ over the past few years has probably
contributed to his lapse in focus. However, I am confident that
faith, love and time (as well as a trusty producer) will bring McCom’s
focus back to where his die-hard fans want it to be… ‘Releasing
high quality recordings AND producing memorable live performances!’
“Keep pushin’ on Frank…!” (February
Frank McComb was introduced to Gerald Levert after working as the
keyboard player and musical director for the Rude Boys in 1990.
He was just 20 at the time. McComb moved to Philadelphia and worked
with none other than Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (Gamble & Huff,
The Sound Of Philadelphia). His next move would be Los Angeles,
where his skills as keyboard player, singer and songwriter where
much sought-after. This move would prove fruitful, as he was able
to secure a position in Branford Marsalis’ experimental ‘Buckshot
Lefonque’ set. The album “Music Evolution” released
1997 on the Columbia record label was a brave eclectic mix of hip-hop
/ jazz / rap. Thankfully McComb was able to put his soulful stamp
on the albums three ballads “Another Day”, “Better
Than I Am” and “Phoenix” (which highlight McComb’s
exceptional vocal abilities).
By now McComb’s fan base was starting to gather pace and
after signing to MoJazz, it seemed we would not have to wait too
long before we would be able to get our hands on more material from
this man. Alas this was not to be, as recorded material, which was
destined for McComb’s debut solo album never saw an official
release. The few die-hard fans that did manage to get their hands
on any material from these sessions say the canning of this album
was an absolute crime. Especially as McComb was able to pay homage
to Stevie Wonder by including the magical “Golden Lady on
Fast forward to the millennium (2000). With further assistance
from Branford Marsalis, Frank McComb now signs with Columbia records.
After much airplay of the delightfully Jazzy / soulful “Future
Love”, waiting and more waiting…promises and further
promises, the album” Love Stories” finally gets a release.
The wheels seemed finally set in motion for McComb’s career
to fast track. After all, “Future Love” was filled from
start to finish with sheer ‘quality music’. Unfortunately
Columbia records marketing cart seemed to be guided by a three-legged
donkey and custom fitted with ‘square wheels’. There
was much deliberation on just how to market this album. Was it Jazz,
was it soul… did we care?
“Future Love” highlighted McComb’s
many talents. Not only did this man’s voice and keyboard wizardry
conjure images of the late great Donny Hathaway (I should know,
I am Hathaway’s biggest fan), but also his ‘Stevie Wonderesque’
key changes and articulate ‘storytelling’ all assisted
in bringing this album alive. This album also forms part of the
soundtrack to my life, and continues to be a major force behind
the birth and growth of this site (track 13, Keep pushin’
2002 saw the release of “The Truth vol1”
on the Expansion record label, an album produced by Steve ‘The
Scotsman’ Harvey. It took me a little while for this album
to grow on me (though I knew it eventually would). I recognised
the tracks “Better off without you” and “Actions
speak louder than words”, which had been previously released
on an album by Brigette Mcwilliams, “Too much woman”,
1997. This album also carries a similar feel to McComb’s “The
Truth”, not too surprising considering both albums shared
production input from Steve Harvey. Critical judgements aside, “The
Truth” is yet another fine recording with outstanding moments
which include the funky, “Watcha Gonna Do”, co written
and features Ledisi on vocals, the innocently delivered “When
You Call My Name” and “Cupid’s Arrow” to
name a few. This album also suffered from poor exposure and distribution
issues, to date only officially receiving a UK release.
In 2004, “Straight From The Vault”
thankfully did reach our shores, but Frank McComb decided it was
time to take control of ‘ his album and his own destiny’.
Just as I have absorbed the contents of the “Future Love”
album and used the lyrics and messages McComb has cleverly interwoven
into positive energy The intro “White line in the sky”
may only be one minute fifty seconds long, but it is nearly two
minutes of sheer bliss (the glass is half full scenario). This track
exudes warmth in both McComb’s vocal delivery and his superb
keyboard and programming genius. . McComb has not only written,
produced, arranged, programmed and sung his heart out on “Straight
From The Vault”, he has also released and distributed the
album himself. His ‘do it yourself’ approach is one
that I truly admire and respect, however, production values occasionally
suffer here with other tracks just not reaching their full ‘sparkling’
“The thing I failed to do” is an open and honest ballad,
with lyrics, which could be sung by most men at some stage in their
relationship (if you are an honest man). Again McComb’s vocals
and swirling keyboard skills are key to the success of this track.
McComb takes his keyboards to new heights throughout this set,
specifically on the instrumentals “King of the open road”
and “Morning glory”, which could be a 2004 version of
“Friends and Strangers” (a composition made famous by
Dave Grusin & Ronnie Laws). It must have felt great to just
‘let loose’ on his keyboards. It certainly sounds as
if McComb had fun.
McComb has an innate ability to deliver a ballad from many unique
angles. Obviously his experiences are key to his success, but it
is not easy to present your experiences to others in such and profoundly
clear and unique way. (Luther Vandross could do this). Both men
and women can grasp what McComb is trying to say. The track “Left
alone”, like many of McComb’s ballads, communicate to
all who are willing to listen.
Jazz café review
Tonight at the Jazz café Frank McComb’s luscious soul
/ jazz offerings, the love he has for his work and perfectionism,
where on display for all to see. I need say no more. This gig was
the bomb! McComb could have easily sat behind either his keyboard,
or piano all-night and allowed his adoring fans to sing each of
his own songs back to him. Thankfully he didn’t!
I did notice a big difference in Frank McComb’s spirit this
time at the Jazz Café. I witnessed McComb perform mainly
“Future Love” tracks here on his first visit a few years
ago. Though his performance was second to none (as expected) his
spirit seemed a little jaded back then.
This time around he was not only on top form, but his spirit shone
like a star in the midnight sky. He was a man on a mission. He is
a musician who produces great music, he has a great career ahead
of him and he is in charge!
I was looking forward to having a chat with McComb in detail about
his life, his music, the past and the future after this gig, but
he was busy signing autographs and posing for photographs with adoring
young ladies who hung around. I left him to his adoring fans this
time, maybe next time I’ll get the chance. I’ll keep
"Keep pushin' on Mr McComb!"
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.