Liz Mc Comb
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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 Calvin.
" 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

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