Abbey Lincoln

One of the most potent of all jazz singers, the dramatic Abbey Lincoln (b. 1930) only sings words that she believes in, in addition to being an underrated lyricist and composer.

Originally a glamorous supper-club singer, Lincoln sang a number in the 1957 film The Girl Can’t Help It. However she was already a major jazz artist during 1957-1959, when she recorded three classic early albums for Riverside. On That’s Him! She is joined by an all-star group consisting of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, trumpeter Kenny Dorham, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Max Roach. Roach would be her future husband and was very influential in steeringLincoln towards socially significant material and upgrading her repertoire and style. She performs a couple of songs associated with Billie Holiday and sounds both powerful and sincere on “Strong Man,” “I Must Have That Man,” and “Don’t Explain.”

For It’s Magic, Lincoln uses a septet that includes the front line of the Jazztet (two years before that group was formed) and Miles Davis’s rhythm section. “An Occasional Man,” “Out of the Past” and “Little Niles” are particularly memorable.Abbey Is Blue has Lincoln joined by a quintet with Kenny Dorham; there are also three numbers with Max Roach’s regular group. Her renditions of Oscar Brown, Jr.’s “Brother, Where Are You?,” “Long As You’re Living,” “Come Sunday, ” and “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise” plus the first-ever vocal version of “Afro Blue” show how influential Abbey Lincoln has been on many of the singers who emerged over the next 45 years.

As an actress, social activist, songwriter, and singer, Abbey Lincoln through the years has continued to be productive and evolve. HerRiverside dates show that she was already unique and special from the start.