Singer-songwriter, Fran Clark, grew up in a music loving family and from an early age was exposed to diverse styles; from Aretha to Jimi Hendrix then back to the vibrations and atmospheres of her Ladbroke Grove childhood via Bob Marley, Ray Charles or Jim Reeves. Diversity being the order of the day, a teenage Fran experimented both vocally and as a songwriter whilst performing with soul, rock, pop and blues musicians. It was her father’s love for Nat King Cole that led her to explore singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and further, the compositions of Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart. As for contemporary heroes, she will name Stevie Wonder and Anita Baker as her favourite singer-songwriters, with Dianne Reeves recognized as her all-time heroine as a vocalist....
With a pleasingly unaffected, natural-sounding delivery and a considerable talent for writing original songs ranging from soulful ballads and lightly funky shuffles to the odd latin-inflected piece or relatively conventional standard-influenced material, Fran Clark has made an auspicious debut recording with To Fly.
The aforementioned range of her material is what immediately impresses. Clark, a Londoner from Ladbroke Grove, grew up exposed to everyone from Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker and Bob Marley to Nat King Cole and the works of Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart, and it shows, but this eclecticism is entirely unforced, enabling her to express straightforward heart-on-sleeve emotion one minute ('Amazing') and emulate the Great American Songbook's penchant for 'list' songs the next ('A Picture of You', 'Goodbye') without any undue abruptness of transition.
The neat tastefulness of her band and the controlled power of her and bassist/co-producer Pete Clark's arrangements help in this process, but overall it is the clear commitment and patent sincerity of Clark herself ('Goodbye', for instance, contains one of the most unaffected spoken passages you're ever likely to hear), not to mention her sheer musicality and ability to deliver a song in a variety of modes and moods, that make this album so attractive.
Intelligently paced like a well-arranged club set, this is an assured recording from a woman to watch.
Chris Parker - The Vortex Jazz Club
FRAN CLARK - TO FLY
This west London based chanteuse is a most accomplished soul and jazz vocalist. Fran is also a songwriter of note, specialising in mellow Latin moods, and penned all 11 of the cuts featured on this her debut album. Herein, Fran is splendidly backed by a seven-piece group, including the fine alto saxophonist Graham Reed, flautist Paul McLoughlin and, in particular, her husband Pete on bass and acoustic guitar - he also acted as the set's engineer. I Knew You Would Forget Me is reminiscent of early Everything But The Girl, circa their Eden album, and is representative of the high standard which Fran is capable of when she is in full flow, in terms of songwriting and performance. Flower In A Field boasts an attractive setting, with it's inventive mix of folk, jazz and South American elements, and provides an excellent illustration of fran's ability to cross musical genres with consummate ease.
MUSICIAN - Winter 2007
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