Kendra Shank: Incantation / Throw It Away

One can only applaud the idea of a tribute album featuring Abbey Lincoln's songs -- especially when Lincoln is still around to appreciate the gesture. But this recording does more to puzzle than to please. The essence of phrasing for jazz vocalists, as epitomized by the work of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, has long been to let the meaning of the words guide the voice. But on this track, Shank seems to accent syllables at random, almost as if she were singing in Esperanto, and didn't know the meaning of the words. Sometimes she falls into a singsong, moving back and forth from heavily stressed to unstressed syllables, reminding me of a babysitter reciting a nursery rhyme. I give Shank credit for trying something different, but Lincoln's moving lyrics are lost in this babble. Shank is a talented singer with an excellent voice, but her conception of this song lets her down on this particular performance.

December 27, 2007 · 0 comments


Abbey Lincoln: Throw It Away (2006)

"Throw it Away" is Lincoln's best-known composition, and has gradually become a jazz standard. But nobody sings it like Lincoln. This is not your typical cabaret fare - the lyrics have more in common with a zen koan than Tin Pan Alley. And the melody sounds more like a folk song than a jazz tune. But in an age of conformism, we are grateful for such transgressions. Yet there is more to celebrate here --namely that Lincoln, at age 76, is still performing at a very high level. On this recent Verve release, she shows that she can bring a fresh perspective to a song she has been singing for decades. Goldstein's accordion work deserves special mention too.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments


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