UPDATE: Abbey Lincoln passed away Saturday, August 14 at the age of 80, a week after the broadcast of this program. In addition to the music featured on this show, you can hear (and view) a performance of Lincoln with Max Roach from The Freedom Now Suite on the Night Lights program We Shall Overcome: Civil-Rights Jazz.
Abbey Lincoln was renowned for her long-running career, her songwriting, and her social activism with husband Max Roach during the civil-rights era of the 1960s, which also fueled her incendiary appearance on Roach's We Insist! The Freedom Now Suite. Before all of that, though, she was an up-and-coming jazz songstress in the late 1950s. She made three LPs for the Riverside label, which jazz writer Will Friedwald says "represent a singular pinnacle of uniformly excellent material, incredible sidemen, and Lincoln's miraculous gift for merging with her accompaniment, thanks partially to arrangements that, while never sounding anything like conventional arrangements, seamlessly mix voice, ensembles, and solos. "
On Lincoln's last Riverside recording, Abbey Is Blue, she showed hints of the direction in which she'd later move, pursuing a more innovative jazz sound in her work, as well as addressing social and political concerns-some of this direction influenced by her relationship with Roach, who had recorded with her on the That's Him LP.
Lincoln's growth as a jazz singer was also demonstrated on the first-ever vocal recording of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro-Blue". Of it Will Friedwald writes:
We can speak of the discrepancy between the lyrics and the musical aspects of singing, but Lincoln's battery of devices integrates the two: her habit of dividing up measures into the most off-center mathematical patterns and her African-influenced use of tone and pitch, both essentially technical strategems that she uses to make a dramatic point.
Up Jumped Abbey
Lincoln had a low studio profile throughout the 1960s and 70s. She and Max Roach divorced in 1970, she spent some time taking care of her elderly mother, and she also took an acting turn in several Hollywood movies. As she moved to resume her singing career in the early 1970s, she discovered that she had a talent for writing songs as well as singing them. Many of her later-period Verve recordings feature her own songs, or jazz melodies that she set to words. "Up Jumped Spring," "Bird Alone," and "Throw It Away" are some of the tunes in which she had a hand that are featured on this Afterglow tribute. In his 2007 review of the Lincoln songbook CD Abbey Sings Abbey Francis Davis praised her compositional work and called her "our greatest living jazz singer."
We'll also hear music from two artists connected to Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool sessions--baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and pianist George Wallington.
Watch Abbey Lincoln perform "First Song" on the TV program Night Music: