During the 1960's Abbey Lincoln successfully combined political activism with a busy, successful career. After divorcing husband drummer Max Roach, the 1970's and 1980's found her relegated to the back burner of the entertainment world although she was still recording, mostly for Indie labels. Then came Stan Getz who recommended her to Verve Records and who played on Lincoln's so-called "comeback album", the successful You Gotta Pay the Band
. Since then, she has been restored to her rightful place as a major jazz diva, with several albums for Verve, personal appearances and other events accorded to a jazz star.
Now at 70, with more than 40 years traversing the boards, comes her latest offering, Over the Years, designed, I guess, to be a summing up of a long career. The play list is rather unusual even for an iconoclast like Lincoln. There are tunes from the 1940's, traditional material, some romantic standards and a few of her own compositions. "When the Lights Go on Again all over the World" was one of the more popular World War II songs reaching number 1 for Vaughan Monroe in 1943. "Lucky to Be Me" is from the Bernstein, Comden, Green musical On the Town and features some ear catching playing by the rhythm section of Brandon McCune, John Ormond and Jaz Sawyer, all relatively unknown musicians. But if their work on this album is an indication, that state of affairs won't last long. Another fine track is the traditional "Blackberry Blossoms" to which Lincoln has added her own lyrics. She is ably supported on this cut by guest tenor player, Joe Lovano and guest guitarist Kendra Shank, who is also a singer of note. These two open up the tune with a melodic duet before Lincoln comes on. Lovano assumes the role of Stan Getz as he becomes tender behind Lincoln on "What Will Tomorrow Bring". The album's coda is appropriate as Lincoln sings "Tender as a Rose" A Capella letting her vocal chords stand on their own without benefit of instrumental accompaniment as she ends it with "as that's the way the story goes".
Despite her years, her voice has lost nothing. In it is maturity, there's even more that, husky, dark and musical appeal that makes Lincoln's singing so alluring. One interesting thing about this album is that Lincoln relies less on dramatic effects she employed on earlier albums. Perhaps she feels that this refinement better allows her to express her approach to singing which she has said to be: "I don't sing jazz. You can't sing jazz. You have to sing your spirit and your heart and your soul. It's not about being clever and scatting and competing with the horns. It's about storytelling . . . taking somebody somewhere." Highly recommended.