20 SEP 07 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Abbey Lincoln wears many hats, both literally and figuratively. Actress, singer, songwriter, political activist -- she's channeled her artistic drive and sharp social consciousness into several lifetimes worth of achievements. A musical Zelig, she was a Hollywood glamour girl making her way through the rough-and-tumble New York jazz scene of the '50s and '60s. Her album Abbey Is Blue captures the creative energies and open field experimentation of that heady musical era. Like her hero Billie Holiday, Lincoln doesn't just sing the lyrics, she experiences them body and soul. Her acting chops are certainly a big part of her success as an interpreter, but it is her absolute dedication to the story a song tells that elevates her music above mere theatrics.
Abbey Is Blue features songs from a diverse group of composers (including Lincoln). Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" shares the set with two Kurt Weill compositions, one of which, "Lonely House", was a collaboration with Langston Hughes. "Afro Blue", with lyrics written by Oscar Brown Jr., marks the first recorded vocal version of the modal standard. Up-and-coming at the time of this recording, the band is a dream team for jazz fans, starting with her then-husband Max Roach. Roach shares the drum chair with Philly Joe Jones, while Wynton Kelly and Cedar Walton fill in on piano. Produced by the venerable Orrin Keepnews, Abbey is Blue is a gem polished by expert craftsmen at the height of their game.