One of the last true great jazz vocalists, 73-year old Abbey Lincoln continues to produce timeless recordings and live concert dates. It's Me is as strong as any entry in her half-century discography.
Lincoln shows us again that she excels in being both a most memorable interpreter and an original singer/songwriter. Her recent week-long residency at the Blue Note shed such a light: accentuating like no other, every word sung like her last and as much from the soul as diaphragm. Listen no further than her enunciation of the "crazy as a loon" lyric in "Skylark," or her singing abandon and still unbelievable range on "Runnin' Wild," or - if you were in the audience on one of her sold-out final nights in October - her most memorable rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man."
With seven of the eleven tracks having orchestral arrangements, three by Alan Broadbent, It's Me features a characteristic batch of top-notch supporters. The underappreciated flautist and altoist James Spaulding is the album's prime soloist. His flute on the album’s coda, "Can You Dig It," matches the bouncy drumming of Jaz Sawyer and solid-as-can-be bass of Ray Drummond, while his alto is full of vibrato and energy on "They Call It Jazz."
Pianist Kenny Barron treats fellow pianist Cedar Walton's homage to Duke ("The Maestro") - recorded by Walton and Lincoln in the early '80s - as if it were his and Lincoln's. And though strangely placed amidst the bulk of arranged orchestral tunes, the duet "It's Me, O' Lord" is a traditional gospel tune that features the church-like roots of Barron and Lincoln.
True enough, Abbey Lincoln's latest has a rewardingly appropriate title.
1. Skylark (Carmichael/Mercer) - 5:25
2. Love Is Made (Lincoln) - 4:02
3. Chateau de Joux (Lincoln) - 4:38
4. It's Me, O' Lord (Standin' in the Need of... (Lincoln/Traditional) - 3:42
5. They Call It Jazz (Lincoln) - 5:14
6. Through the Years (Lincoln/Meseleku) - 4:30
7. Runnin' Wild (Gibbs/Grey/Wood) - 3:52
8. The Maestro (Walton) - 5:25
9. The Search (Woolridge) - 5:31
10. Yellow Bird (Burgie) - 4:45
11. Can You Dig It (Lincoln/Wooldridge) - 5:39
Alan Broadbent - conductor;
Ray Drummond - bass;
James Spaulding - flute, alto sax;
Laurent Cugny - conductor;
Bob Carlisle - French horn;
Abbey Lincoln - vocals;
Sanford Allen - violin;
Kenny Barron - piano;
Akua Dixon - cello;
Joyce Hammann - violin;
Steve Hartman - clarinet, bass clarinet;
Regis Iandiorio - violin;
Richard Locker - cello;
Kermit Moore - cello;
Stewart Rose - French horn;
Julien Lourau - soprano sax, tenor sax;
Belinda Whitney - violin;
Daniel Culpepper - French horn;
Krystof Witek - violin;
Ashley Horne - violin;
Pauline Kim - violin;
Susan Rotholz - flute;
Robin Zeh - violin;
Ariane Lallemand - cello;
Jaz Sawyer - drums;
Hiroko Taguchi - violin;
Ted Ackerman - cello;
Jonathan Dinklage - violin;
David Heiss - cello;
Jeff Lang - French horn;
Shari Hoffman - clarinet;
Alexandra Mckenzie - cello;
Susan Niedel Palma - flute.