Quiana Lynell – A Little Love


Title: A Little Love
Artist: Quiana Lynell
Label: Concord Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 5, 2019


Born and raised in Tyler, Texas, Quiana Lynell, like so many great singers before her, first began to sing in the church, then later attended Louisiana State University to study classical voice. She quickly found that the classical world didn’t necessarily suit her, and when a friend allowed Lynell to sit in with a blues band, she “learned that singers can have pretty voices and be entertainers.” Since then, Lynell has gone on to perform with such acclaimed artists as Terrence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, Bilal, Ledisi, and many more. In 2017 she really made her name in jazz by winning the famed Sarah Vaughn International Vocal Competition. Now, Lynell is presenting her debut album. Continue reading

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

The Standard

Title: The Standard
Artist: Take 6
Label: Heads Up
Catalog No.: 3142
Release date: September 30, 2008

Since the 1980s, Take 6 has aimed for new heights in a cappella singing and they’ve rarely missed the mark.  For the group’s followers, who have come to expect outstanding harmonies and musicianship, great individual vocal talent and arrangements, The Standard will not disappoint.  Through various personal incarnations over the years, Take 6 has performed a mixture of gospel, R&B, popular music, and jazz.  The Standard follows this format but features five jazz standards along with the usual eclectic mix of musical genres and a host of exceptional guest performances to boot.

The core six members of the group are featured on six (mostly gospel) selections, performing in their characteristic tight harmonies and with almost unfathomable musical meticulousness.  The vocal arrangements by lead singer, Mark Kibble are an important part of the group’s successful sound, blending colors and rhythm. In particular, Quincy Jones’s “Grace” (recorded twice in a “pre-prise” and an extended version) stands out for its distinctive smooth and soulful appeal.

Guest artists include George Benson on “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” Jon Hendricks and Al Jarreau on “Seven Steps To Heaven,” Aaron Neville on “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” Brian McKnight on “What’s Going On,” and Shelea Frazier is introduced on “Someone to Watch Over Me.”  A sampling of Ella Fitzgerald tops off the guest list with a swingin’ and sweet new a cappella arrangement of “A Tisket a Tasket.”

The addition of Ms. Frazier (who is assisted by jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove) in particular is a great discovery. Frazier’s voice squeezes every bit of emotion out of her feature number and then some, rendering the song anew.  This may be the singer’s premier to the mainstream but it certainly won’t be her final hurrah.

Whether you favor jazz, gospel, R&B or just good music, The Standard is a performance not to be missed.

Editor’s note: As you may have heard, The Standard was recently nominated for 3 Grammy Awards: Best Gospel Performance for “Shall We Gather At The River;” Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for “Grace” (arranged by Take 6’s Cendric Dent); and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for “Seven Steps To Heaven.”  Want to know Cedric Dent’s favorite Christmas albums? Check out his latest blog entry here.

Posted by Karen Faye Taborn