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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Abbey is Blue

Poll Winners Records 27234



1. Afro Blue
2. Lonely House
3. Let Up
4. Thursday's Child
5. Brother, Where Are You?
6. Laugh, Clown, Laugh
7. Come Sunday
8. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
9. Lost in the Stars
10. Long as you're Living
11. I Am in Love
12. It's Magic
13. Just for Me
14. An Occasional Man
15. Ain't Nobody's Business
16. Out of the Past
17. Music, Maestro, Please
18. Love
19. Exactly Like You
20. Little Niles
21. Out of the Past (Live)

Abbey Lincoln - Vocals on all tracks
1-10 Abbey Is Blue
Tracks 4-5 and 7-9
Kenny Dorham - Trumpet
Phil Wright or Wynton Kelly - Piano
Les Spann - Guitar, flute
Sam Jones - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Track 2
Les Spann - Guitar
Tracks 1, 3, 6 and10
Tommy Turrentine - Trumpet
Julian Priester - Trombone
Stanley Turrentine - Tenor sax
Cedar Walton - Piano
Bobby Boswell - Bass
Max Roach - Drums
11-20 It's Magic
Tracks 13, 14-15, 17 and 19
Kenny Dorham - Trumpet
Curtis Fuller - Trombone
Benny Golson - Tenor sax
Jerome Richardson - Flute, baritone sax
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Tracks 11-12, 16, 18 and 20
Art Farmer - Trumpet
Curtis Fuller - Trombone
Benny Golson - Tenor sax
Sahib Shihab - Baritone sax
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Sam Jones - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Track 21 - Unknown piano trio


When Riverside Records first released these two albums - It's Magic in 1958 and Abbey Is Blue in 1959, Abbey Lincoln was beginning her transformation from a sultry songstress to a jazz singer with impeccable taste and an interpreter of songs with deep personal meaning.

Backed by musicians who were among the best in jazz, and drawing on the inspiration of her vocal hero Billie Holiday, Lincoln uses her expressive voice to offer a memorable selection of tunes. Leading off with the first-ever vocal rendition of Herbie Mann's Afro Blue with lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr. (who also provided the plaintive words to Brother, Where Are You? and the offbeat Long as you're Living), Lincoln brings dramatic colour to these pieces. Even at this early stage of her career, Abbey Lincoln knew that she had the talent for both composing and lyric-writing as evidenced by her own deep blues Let Up. With a style which showcases a voice that is attached to each note, Lincoln offers a gospel-infused take on Ellington's Come Sunday and a touching reading of the Hammerstein II/Romberg chestnut Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise. It should be noted that the drummer Max Roach, who later became Lincoln's husband and an important musical influence, provided especially strong support, leading a three-horn sextet on Laugh, Clown, Laugh along with three other tunes.

While the second half of this CD is from the earlier date It's Magic, it is no less effective or affecting. Supported by an all-star group with arrangements by Benny Golson, there are many gems within these cuts. Rhythmically secure and stylistically lagging behind the band, Lincoln is heard to her best advantage on Cole Porter's I Am in Love and that old ballad Music, Maestro, Please. A young Jon Hendricks added lyrics to the Benny Golson composition Out of the Past, which Lincoln reprises in both a studio and live version. Taking advantage of the loosely structured swinging Golson arrangements Lincoln dives into Exactly Like You and Ain`t Nobody`s Business with gusto. Lastly a word about the title track It's Magic. Written by Jule Stein and Sammy Cahn, it was introduced by Doris Day in 1948 for her motion picture debut Romance on the High Seas. It was nominated for an Academy Award but did not win. While Day was an accomplished big-band singer having worked with the Les Brown band, her dramatic version of the song is a far cry from the understated rendition provided by Lincoln and this is probably closer to the writers' intentions.

After recently celebrating her 80th birthday, Abbey Lincoln remains one of the last great jazz divas and these early sides show the promise that was eventually fulfilled.

Pierre Giroux


P.S. Abbey Lincoln sadly died on 14 August, aged 80.


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