Thursday, November 5, 2015


Sophisticated Abbey is an album jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln recorded in concert in 1980 at the famed San Francisco jazz club The Keystone Korner. HighNote Records unveiled the album nationwide three months back. “Sophisticated Abbey” set-list has some timeless standards, and Lincoln was of excellent voice that evening. Like Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday, Lincoln could boil down any song to its bare essence. Throughout “Sophisticated Abbey,” Lincoln took care with each song as if she hand washed every lyric. The production and audio quality of the recording are so distinct it feels as if Lincoln is singing while seated on your lap. The cuts surely to be replayed over and over are the medleys. The first includes “Sophisticated Lady,” “There Are Such Things,” and “Man of Music (Con Alma). On the second, Lincoln goes all in on “The Nearness of You” and “For All We Know”. Honestly, there isn’t a subpar cut on this album. Lincoln employed a sharp rhythm section in bassist James Leary, drummer Doug Sides, and pianist Phil James. James, rumored to have been in a dead heat with Wynton Kelly as Lincoln's favorite accompanist, was responsible for extracting pure honey from Lincoln during the concert. On the duet "Whistling Away the Dark," her voice melted over Wright's fingers. Lincoln always cited Billie Holiday as her biggest inspiration musically. She closed “Sophisticated Abbey” with such a thoughtful reworking of "God Bless the Child" it would've caused Holiday to blush if she were alive to experience it.    

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