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Abbey Lincoln: African Queen in a Top Hat

Joan Gannij By

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She returned to New York City in the 1980s where she resumed performing and began her successful affiliation with Jean-Philippe Allard, visionary producer and label director of PolyGram (Verve) France. Her first recording in 1990 was The World is Falling Down which was both critically and commercially a success. There would be eight more albums to follow (see Selected Discography), which would include collaborations with Stan Getz and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, along with a who's who of veteran virtuosos like Roy Hargrove, Archie Shepp, Hank Jones, Charlie Haden, Nicholas Payton, and Joe Lovano. In keeping the tradition of Betty Carter, Lincoln recruited a collective pride of young lions, which would include bassist John Ormond, pianists Brandon McCune and Marc Cary, and drummers Jaz Sawyer and Alvester Garnett. Her last recording (2007), Abbey Sings Abbey is an exclusive songbook, performed in an acoustic-roots setting by a weathered but not too weary voice.



Assessing her career a few years before the open-heart surgery (in 2007), which would leave her fragile but still feisty, she said: "I've had a chance to experience it all: the joy and the other, the self-destructive: it's the lack of understanding of a spiritual nature. But the music always comes, it's with us: the African muse. At first the music was spiritual, gospel, blues, then jazz, rock 'n roll, rap, hip hop. It's what we were given as a people because our ancestors practiced it. It had nothing to do with the (music) industry. We're a blessed people. It's pitiful if people don't know what they're given and say they are underprivileged. To have this gift and legacy really makes me thankful; I feel really privileged, and I am."


Selected Discography

Abbey Lincoln, Abbey Sings Abbey (Universal Jazz France, 2007)

Abbey Lincoln, Over the Years (Universal Jazz France, 2000)

Abbey Lincoln, Wholly Earth (Polydor/Polygram, 1998)

Abbey Lincoln, Who Used to Dance (Polydor/Polygram, 1997)

Abbey Lincoln, A Turtle's Dream (Polygram, 1995)

Abbey Lincoln, When There is Love (Polydor/Polygram, 1993)

Abbey Lincoln, Devils' Got Your Tongue (Polygram, 1992)

Abbey Lincoln, You Gotta Pay The Band, feat. Stan Getz (Polygram, 1991)

Abbey Lincoln, Painted Lady (Intercord Rec. Stuttgart, 1987)

Photo Credits

Pages 1-3: Hans Kumpf

Page 4: Joan Gannij

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