Frankie and The Family Band

Frankie and The Family Band

 Newark, New Jersey, USA

If John Coltrane's horn was expressed as a singer, it would probably sound like Karen Francis - aka Frankie. Style is a mix of power and submission, equal parts sugar and salt, high and low, sweet and strident. All used with an exquisite sense of control, taste and sensitivity.


Born to and raised by a musician in Keysville, Georgia, Karen Francis - now known as "Frankie" - had a father who played the piano, sang, and was a band and acapella choir director.

Frankie was discovered by jazz pianist and producer, Stanley Cowell when she met him at a party at his home in Maryland. On request, she nervously sat in with him and a few weeks later he invited her to record with him - which she did. That was her first real gig ever. They made a CD called "Mandara Blossoms" for SteepleChase records, recorded in New York City. She was excited and terrified all at the same time. Being new to the music and the musicians, Stanley gave her the opportunity to work with himself, Ralph Peterson and Billy Pierce. This experience went a long way towards helping her to shape and direct her sound and approach to music.

That opportunity led to two solo recordings of her own with the same label: 'Where is Love?' and 'Little Sunflower'. Later she recorded a project titled 'Better Days' with Indie label - VirgoRising Records. On those projects she worked with Larry Willis, Mark Turner, Christian McBride, Lonnie Plaxico, Gerry Eastman, George Cables, George Colligan, James King, Antonio Parker, Mike Hawkins, Nasar Abadey, Sam Turner, Barnette Williams and Aaron Walker.

Their sound is what you might call elastic. It goes from 'if-john-coltrane-was-a-singer-his-horn-would -sound-like-her-voice' to 'honey-dipped-smooth-soothe'.

Karen works with versatile, high energy players who can stroll inside a ballad and run inside a swing. She uses the voice like an instrument.

What sets her music apart from other bands is a special chemistry that she creates with her groups and the intimacy of her approach to her work. Taken together she makes profound contact with the audience.

It's something that is hard to describe but is known when you feel it - like the magic that happens when the chemistry is right between lovers.

Karen peforms some really inspiring original music that she co-writes with some of the band members.

Her earliest days of music began somewhere around age 4 when she spent time laying under my father's baby grand piano while he played "Two Sleepy People". He made that piano sigh and weep and Karen remembers feeling what he was feeling when he played.

She would also go with her father to his weekly choir rehearsal, sitting quietly on the back riser in the choir room while he rehearsed his acapella group at Boggs Academy in Georgia.

That's when she started learning about vocal articulation since he was very particular about that.

At around that same time her father started her on the piano. "I can't remember not listening to music though - or not being around it. My parents had Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, and Marian Anderson records that I listened to over and over and over and over... And I was also addicted to movie musicals on tv - and I was in love with Barbara Streisands musicals", say Francis.

Eventually - in grade school - she took on the clarinet and added baritone horn, alto saxophone and baritone sax.

While doubling on the barry, the boy who was the section leader of the baritone section thought she was better on clarinet (didn't like the competition) and eventually they became high school sweethearts. What he learned about jazz, he taught her, so she learned the music from, inside of, and because of love.

"Each time I make a record, it's a wonderful, complicated, fun, and intense personal and spiritual growth process", states Karen.

Her latest project in development features Donald Vega, Marc Cary, and Norman Simmons (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Alvester Garnette and Greg Hutchinson (drums). This features some beautiful musical love thrown in from Mark Gross and Justin Robinson on alto saxophone.

Francis is moving forward progressively. You will not regret an experience with Karen, now known as "Frankie" and her Family Band.


What Shall I Say?

Written By: Antonio Parker

What shall I say of you
when you say that we are through?
And now you come back for for love
with words I never dreamed of.
Heaven now falls from the sky
oh in the sweet bye and bye...
What shall I say?
What shall I say of you?

How will I know it's true
when you say that skies are blue?
Can we really start anew?
Has something really come over you?
Oh what the season brings,
Winter now turns into spring.
Maybe I'll Say....
Maybe..... I'll Say.. I love you..

Four Voices Left Unheard

Written By: Allyn Johnson/Karen Francis

Four flowers, Four ours
Four ever are gone.
From a world
where black girls
often die alone.
Four voices left unheard
Still I feel every word
Flowers that should have bloomed
were crushed to earth
fresh from the womb.

Little girls, sunday curls
pink ribbons and bows.
Shiny knees, "Mama Please!
can we walk alone"?
Why did it have to be?
Hatred and jealousy
there is much left to do
but now it's up to me and you

One doctor, one lawyer
one mother of three.
Destinies in the breeze
dreams we'll never see
What could they each have been?
People we all are kin
Now we must show the youth
dig up the lies
and plant the truth.

Better Days

Written By: Carmen Lundy

Better days will surely come
just you keep on holding on.
Everyday will be much sweeter than the days before
All you got to do is keep on holding on.

Someday soon the rain will end
Better days will come again.
Everyday will be much sweeter than the days before
All you got to do is keep on holding on.

Start each day with a smile and look towards the light.
It's only a matter of time, and it won't be long.
Just keep on holding on.


Madara Blossoms (Stanley Cowell featuring Karen Francis) - SteepleChase Records
Where Is Love? - SteepleChase Records
Little Sunflower - SteepleChase Records
Better Days - VirgoRising Records

Set List

A Typical Set List might include:
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
The Nearness of You
On A Clear Day
Better Days
Little Sunflower
What Shall I Say of You?
People Make the World Go Round
My Funny Valentine
My Favorite Things
If You Never Come to Me
Old Devil Moon
Four Voices Left Unheard
Cameron's Song

A set would include at least 7 songs.

A set would last at least 55 - 70 minutes.