Abbey Lincoln used to call her songs "little ditties." That's what her pianist James Weidman told us when we played a WBGO recording of her from The Peppermint, a jazz club in New Jersey, on JazzSet. It comes from the 1980s, and Abbey was introducing her album Talking to the Sun. This is the cover photo.
Those little ditties contain amazing images. It's as though we can be with Abbey Lincoln all over again as Cassandra Wilson sings "Talking to the Sun," Dee Dee Bridgewater chooses "Another World" (singing it made her cry), and Dianne Reeves soars on"Bird Alone." All three whistle and trill on "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." It may be my favorite moment of this Tribute to Abbey Lincoln from the Kennedy Center. Hear it Sunday, June 17, at 6pm .. Wednesday, June 20, at 6:30 .. or any time at wbgo.org/jazzset.
UPDATE: Read the review from The Washington Post here. Critic Mike Joyce tells you about THE BAND! And there's a good photo. BP
On Friday night at the Mary Lou Williams Festival in Washington, DC, four daughters of Abbey Lincoln (1930-2010) opened her songbook together, for the first time.
This was a dynamic concert, and generous too. More than five hundred people in the Terrace Theater concentrated on the artists onstage concentrating on words and music that came from Abbey Lincoln's own concentration. We felt the loss of her, and newly appreciated the gift she left us.
Abbey Lincoln is proof that a rose by any other name smells as sweet. The reigning diva of jazz has had more than a few names over the years. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge. Her earliest professional names include Gaby Wooldridge and Gaby Lee. For eight years, she was legally Mrs. Max Roach. The cultural minister of Zaire bestowed the name Aminata Moseka.
Abbey Lincoln has certainly earned the right of the great singers in our music, those who need only one name. Billie. Sarah. Ella. Carmen. Betty. Abbey.
For decades, Ms. Lincoln has also been the poet laureate of jazz. Her songs have expressed the essential components of a life unfolding, the sum of our strengths and vulnerabilities. That which makes us human. What's right and what's wrong with us. What we have done. What we can do better.
WBGO recorded Abbey Lincoln at Iridium in New York, October 1996. Marc Cary is the pianist, Michael Bowie the bassist, Aaron Walker the drummer.