Abbey Lincoln – Sophisticated Abbey

Abbey Lincoln
Title: Sophisticated Abbey

Artist: Abbey Lincoln

Label: HighNote

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: August 21, 2015


Sophisticated Abbey provides a new window to a previously under-documented period in jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln’s career. This set, recorded live in 1980 at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, showcases Lincoln’s sensibility during the ‘70s and ‘80s, moving away from her signature songs about social issues and sonic experimentation towards a revival of classic vocal swing.

Lincoln, a singer who just sings the songs, rather than embellishing them as an instrumentalist or a flashier vocalist might, interprets the tunes on this record with a restrained sensibility, backed by only a rhythm section of Phil Wright (piano), James Leary (Bass), and Douglas Sides (drums). The set includes some of Lincoln’s original compositions, such as “Painted Lady” and “People in Me,” but mostly consists of songs composed or popularized by other artists, including numbers composed by Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” and even Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady.”

Lincoln and company treat all of the songs gently, simply playing through the form rather than turning them into vehicles for extended improvisation, staying true to the vocalist-fronted small band idiom. This set is an interesting record of Lincoln’s mid-career activities, but ultimately falls short of her more adventurous classic album releases.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley