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Kendra Shank: A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook

Just as I don’t understand the need to wait until someone is dead to pay homage, I’ve never quite comprehended why, when shaping a tribute album, an artist would, or should, feel the need to try and echo the person they’re honoring. So, bravo to Kendra Shank on both counts.

Shank, eager to salute her longtime friend Abbey Lincoln while the living legend was still, well, living, couldn’t duplicate Lincoln’s vocal style, even if she wanted to (where Lincoln is very much of the Billie Holiday school, Shank, who cut her musical teeth on folk and folk-rock, suggests the rounder, more robust sound of, say, a Linda Ronstadt). Nor, to her credit, does she want to, rightly pointing out that if you desire to listen to Abbey Lincoln, attend a Lincoln concert or buy a Lincoln album. Instead, her goal with A Spirit Free is, excuse the irony, to capture the spirit of Lincoln the composer, choosing 11 personal favorites from her hero and mentor’s list of more than 100 compositions. Again, bravo.

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