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Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bill Smith at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Jazz at Lincoln Center paid tribute to vocalist Abbey Lincoln by devoting three consecutive nights at Alice Tully Hall to the songs of the 71-year-old reigning jazz diva. For the Saturday-night, March 9 finale, the former Anna Marie Woolridge, looking elegant and rail-thin in a long black dress, fronted an eight-piece group consisting of pianist Marc Cary, bassist John Ormond, drummer Jaz Sawyer, percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell and alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, plus a cellist and two female backup singers.

Despite the best efforts of Lincoln’s regular accompanist, Cary, the band never really jelled. Perhaps the acoustics of Alice Tully Hall-designed for European classical music, not jazz-make it difficult for jazz players to hear and interact with each other as they would ordinarily in a club setting. It sometimes sounded as if piano, bass and drums were feeling the beat in three slightly different places. Perhaps more rehearsal time was all that was needed. In any case, Lincoln did an excellent job of keeping the audience focused on her own center-stage performance, with the emphasis on her highly personal and creative approach to lyrics.

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