I want to believe that for a broadening circle of long time listeners
to "The Music" Abbey Lincoln is synonymous with "The State of the
Art" as far as the instrumentally "re-defined" blues song. After
Al Jolson or with Kenny G, its difficult to say "Jazz " and attach
it to something profound, without a grim shrug in acknowledgement
of the disingenuous commercialism heaped on the term almost since
But if we are meaning "blue song",
transformed by instrumental adaptation of rhythm and the harmelodic
expansiveness of improvisation as acknowledged reorganization of
the line the beat the melody the harmonic relationships, then we
are talking about Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald,
Sarah Vaughan and Abbey Lincoln. This is not meant to be exclusive,
in the sense that nobody else could do this. Betty Carter, Carmen
McRae, among others, talking about female artists in the music.
They have to be mentioned. Just as in the realm of the straight
up Blues, Bessie, Ma Rainey, Aretha from the jump.
But from the particular perspective
I'm coming from, the combining of the most traditional Blues feeling,
sound, timbre, content, transformational form, with the constantly
reconfigured newest renewal which creates the continuum of the music,
from its various innovators, then these singers are the music's
Abbey Lincoln, like the most expressive
re-definers of tradition, has absorbed it seems, all of the past,
recent as it is, and with the chemical equation of her own life
and experience, threaded through the rational process of general
and musical intelligence honed to light with the endless practice
that produces high skill, carries and offers freely, a vocal artistry,
right now on this planet, that is the main paradigm for revelation
in this time and the next.
As voice, instrument, narrator, dramatist,
actress, creator of the mise en scene, auteur, improviser, melodist,
poet, Abbey Lincoln moves without peer. Knowing her music is to
know a lot about Abbey Lincoln, as it is with the deepest artists.
Because so much of their whole feeling thoughtful combined selves
are used to create their art.
So the sensitive lyricism, the blade
sharp insight very often touched with a droll but wistful humor,
the emotional revelation that is one constant dimension of her singing
is very evident in the woman herself.