THE DAILY STAR (december 29, 1998)
AUB rocks to the gospel according to Liz
The assembly Hall has probably seen nothing like it
in its 109-year history. The AUB may have started its
life as the Syrian Protestant College, but Liz McComb
was eons away from the dour asceticism of Luther and
" I come to bring joy ", McComb announced
on Sunday evening. And after she had unleashed nearly
two hours of the infectious rhythms of black American
Christianity, an audience of 500 left with a spring
in their step.
" Gospel " music developed in 1930s Chicago
with the likes of Thomas A. Dorsey, but its roots lie
in the spiritual chants and blues music of the deep
south. It is infused with the West African rhythms and
vocal stylings that endured slavery.
Like Aretha Franklin before her, Liz McComb learned
her music in church as the daughter of a minister ;
and like Aretha Franklin, she moves effortlessly and
sweety between gospel, blues and jazz.
Radiant in a glittering jacket amid flashing lights,
McComb opened solo on piano with " I'm So Happy
I Can't Sit Down " and, true to her word, rose
and sung upright, unaccompanied, with a range and tone
and power that made a microphone an optional extra.Her
three-piece band really kicked in on McComb's own composition
" Fire " and washed over some sound problems.
There was blues organ from the Rev. Harold T. Johnson
on McComb's " The Rich Man " and blues lead
guitar from Jay Golden on the traditional " Don't
Let the Devil Ride ".
This was so southern, you could almost smell the alligators
creeping out the Mississippi swamp.
McComb's " The Man Upstairs " was mainstream
jazz. And then there was a faster, rousing tempo on
" When the Saints Go Marching In " as McComb
brought the audience to their feet by leaving the stage
and, tambourine in hand, marching down the aisle.
The climax of the show saw the Rev. Johnson play piano
as McComb launched into a medley of the Gershwins' "
Summertime " and the traditional spiritual "
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child ". Beginning
from a gentle rocking-chair-on-verandah sway, McComb
built to a crescendo of a barrage of scatting that left
her audience, if not her, breathless. Along the way
bassist Jay Golden was funking-up by slapping the strings
a la Stanley Clarke (though Golden pointed out after
the show that Clarke learned this from Larry Graham
of Sly Stone fame).
McComb proved philosophical after the show about the
cancellation, for security reasons, of her planned Christmas
Day concert in Naqoura. " Every year I do a free
concert at Christmas ", she said. " Last year
it was for homeless people in France. I try to bring
goodwill-after all, love is very simple ".
After touring Europe in the 1970s, McComb settled first
in Switzerland and then France. These days, she is spending
more time in the United States and was in Nashville
in early December recording a gospel TV show. Her two
most recent albums, 'Time Is Now " and " Olympia
1998, live ", were selling like hot cakes at AUB.
" I just move with the spirit ", said McComb.
" If you sing with an open heart, people can enjoy
it ". Amen.
By Gareth Smyth