The Way Station
June 24, 2015 Kosi
has devalued the phrase "unsung hero" by being a valuable heroine of song. The New York-based singer-songwriter has dropped three albums so far in her fiercely independent career. Between the intimate guitar-accompanied One More Cup of Coffee
and her full band follow-up Pictures of Us
, she had already described a lifetime's worth of ups and downs for the self-reflective listener. In anticipation of her latest album, Ghosts Appearing Through the Sound
, she floated some of the Abbey Lincoln songs that are the subject of its timely tribute.
If Kosi's no-frills style comes across powerfully on record, it was even more a force to be reckoned with in person. Like the unbroken eye contact she maintained with the audience, her voice burrowed deep into a core, universal energy that bound performer to listener: a style one cannot learn but which one possesses by gift of creation. For a brief yet full performance at The Way Station in Brooklyn, she was joined by regular guitarist Aron Marchak, bassist Christopher Hall, saxophonist Brendon Biagi, and drummer Isaiah Pierce. Hall and Pierce kept things real throughout, providing a simpatico groove that made everything that much slicker in the set's better known standards. Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" proved the band to be an appropriate cushion for Kosi's incisive tone, which healed even as it wounded. Solo flights were on point all around, Marchak kicking the smoothness quotient up a fret or two in the process. "Blue Monk," by the one and only Thelonious, was a visceral blues that featured some flint-to- stone sparks from Biagi and, a fact not often remembered, lyrics by Abbey Lincoln.
Two of Lincoln's own songs, "Down Here Below" and "Wholly Earth," unfolded their richer brocades through Kosi's delivery, which made them feel ancient, reborn. Like the poetry that guided it, her voice traveled up and down the flow chart of life, balancing despair and hope in equal measure. In other words, going low to seek the high. The second song in particular was tailor made for the entire band as it linked cause to effect with genuinely personal politics. Between these Lincoln juggernauts was the calmer but no less real "Harlem Shaman." This soulful number, with lyrics by Kosi and music by tenor saxophonist Beavin Lawrence, pushed the edges of its own reality, crossing one soulful avenue after another until the city became its own song.