Fran Clark To Fly (body & soul BNS001)
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