Saturday, May 26, 2007

Abbey Lincoln's songs

Abbey Lincoln has a new record out, "Abbey Sings Abbey" with guitar-centric remakes of many of her most well know original songs. Some might say it's not really a jazz album, or at least the sort of jazz album we've come to expect from Abbey Lincoln over the past 15 years or so in her affiliation with Gitanes/Verve Records. Most of those were straight ahead affairs with the likes of Stan Getz, Hank Jones, Charlie Haden and co. This one is mining the musical terrain most often occupied by people like Cassandra Wilson, in a jazz/roots/folk sort of sound, with pedal steel, dobro/resonator guitar, accordion, etc.

Nate Chenin of the New York Times points out that this new setting makes sense, as Lincoln's songs often follow the verse-chorus-verse structure we associate with folk music. But to my ears, more than form, it's also Lincoln's melodies that have a strong folk element to them. They most often have very simple and predictable melodies, with a sort of "singsong" quality to them. They usually take one short melodic fragment, and then develop it through the song, either ascending or descending through the chords (Throw It Away, Down Here Below, Bird Alone, etc). If I could level one complaint at Lincoln's compositions, it's that they have a tendency to sound the same, to draw upon the same melodic ideas and similar chord progressions. In some ways, I think they work a better in this new context. The first time I played this new version of "Throw It Away" the phones lit up with people wanting to know who and what it was that played, so perhaps "Abbey Sings Abbey" will bring her talents to a new, larger audience. I know I appreciate her music in a different way now, after hearing this album.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds very interesting. I've seen Abbey perform many times. I agree about her melodic concept. I haven't heard this record but I can see how this instrumentation would work for her songs.

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7:49 PM  
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6:41 PM  

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