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Singer/songwriter Frank McComb revives early '70s heyday of soul, R&B, and jazz fusion on new CD

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What to singer/songwriter Frank McComb is A New Beginning is actually a fond trip back for music buffs, especially those who lived through the early '70s heyday of soul and R&B. On A New Beginning, McComb echoes the incandescent urban pop of Stevie Wonder, the rhythmic jazz of George Benson, and the pulsating fusion of Herbie Hancock. On songs such as “Wishful Thinking," with its sparkling keyboards and Wonder-esque harmonies, and “Inspire a Life," riding an infectiously funk groove, McComb has literally built a time machine that blasts back to the Golden Age.

Q: What initially fueled your interest in becoming a musician? Was it a certain artist or artists(s)? Or something else altogether?

A: Both. As a child I grew up watching my mother and her sisters all standing around the piano and singing, especially during the holidays. Music was always played in the house, from Shirley Caesar and the Caravans to Herbie Hancock to Stevie Wonder. There was always music on what was called back then the record player. My grandmother knew there was something special about me when I was a toddler because I would ask my mother to play the record player, and I would then stand over it to watch the record spin. My older cousins would all laugh as my grandmother would come to my defense saying, “y'all are laughin' now but Lil' Frankie is gonna be something one day, watch and see."

Q: How old were you when your grandmother's prediction started to become reality?

A: I entered the musical field professionally at the age of 15 after taking three piano lessons from my aunt Evelina Palmer at the age of 12. The lessons ended quickly due to her having to take on a new job, but I enjoyed what I had learned so much that I tried to play everything my ears could hear.

Q: Would you describe yourself as a good student?

A: I was a fast learner in this subject. At age 15 I was in the clubs of Cleveland, Ohio playing for and learning from all the older local musicians. At age 17, I headed up The Frank McComb Trio, which was inspired by my love for Ramsey Lewis' trio work in the '60s and early '70s, and at age 20 I was hired to tour as the musical director for The Rude Boys, an R&B group founded by the late Gerald LeVert.

Q: How have your views on music changed at this stage in your life now compared to when you were just starting out?

A: Music to me has now become more of a form of “expression" than a form of “art." I don't “feel" anything from a lot of the stuff I hear today. Nothing really moves me anymore because somewhere we've lost the substance and integrity in music. Singers with great voices are putting their voice on top of tracks that diminishes the purity of the sound of their voices and a lot of great rappers are angry or bragging about the material things they really don't own. R&B now has many different names such as Adult Contemporary, Neo-Soul, hip-hop, gangsta rap, etc. It's not just simply “R&B" anymore. A lot of the “jazz" we listen to today is watered down because it's not really “jazz" or “fusion."

Q: What are your goals as a musician in terms of your art?

A: To leave as much music as I possibly can on this earth while I'm here.

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