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January/February 2001

Abbey Lincoln
Over the Years
Verve

One of the top tale-spinners of our time, the ever-poetic singer-songwriter Abbey Lincoln delivers a 10-song latticework of considerable refinement with Over the Years. Never one to deal in up-tempos or flowery wordless trifles, Lincoln instead concentrates on delivering lyrics with an elegant sense of phrasing and poetic irony that charms continuously—and that sense of irony is coupled with a no-nonsense demeanor that doesn’t suffer fools easily, in either lyric or vocal demeanor. These are qualities that set her in a category all her own.

Among the qualities she demands of her often youthful accompanists are keen attention to lyrical detail and the ability to support with a subtle safety net. Those supporters this time include pianist Brandon McCune, who is well on his way toward being a singer’s best friend, having prepped in Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program; bassist John Ormond; and drummer Jaz Sawyer. With Lincoln it’s always fascinating to see who she’ll recruit next to lend further flavor to her muse. This time it’s Joe Lovano’s tenor sax for six cuts, Jerry Gonzalez’s(!) trumpet for two tracks, Jennifer Vincent’s delicate cello on two and erstwhile vocalist Kendra Shank’s guitar for the traditional piece “Blackberry Blossoms,” to which Lincoln delivers new lyrics.

Like a fine burgundy, dark and rich, Abbey Lincoln is best sipped, not quaffed. Don’t come to this looking for burning tempos or vocal gymnastics; this is music for the pure in heart.

Originally published in January/February 2001
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